100 Ab Exercises Continued
It seems everyone wants to know about the most effective ab exercises.
A slim waistline with well defined abdominal muscles sure stands out on the beach, whether you are male or female.
To get that 'six-pack' look requires more than just crunches or sit-ups or any other ab exercises alone. You will only get there if you incorporate abdominal exercises with your overall workout routine...including cardio work and proper nutrition.
That layer of fat over your abs is the enemy to be conquered. Do enough ab exercises and you could build yourself the most amazing abs ever, but no one will ever know if they are covered with a layer of fat.
To paraphrase an old adage...
'Abs may be built in the gym but they are defined in the kitchen.'
Firstly, I want to dispell a myth...
You cannot develop or work your lower abs separate from the upper abs.
In fact, upper and lower abs are all part of the same muscle and any of the following ab exercises will work both upper and lower abs.
I own several best-selling books by big-name experts who tell you how to target the lower abs and even give you pictures of how to do it...well, there is no proof that you can isolate the lower abs and work them separately.
You see, even though the abdominal muscle appears to be rippled and divided (the lines are actually intersections called linea alba and linea transversea), it is in fact a single muscle and the "lower abdominals" simply don't exist.
Another myth that needs to be cleared up has to do with the difference between hip flexion and truck flexion.
The abdominals are responsible for trunk flexion - when your pelvis and sternum approach each other as during a crunch.
Hip flexion occurs when you lift your knee or knees so that the angle between your upper leg and trunk become smaller such as with a hanging knee-up exercise.
The confusion comes in when this exercise leads you to feel a burn in the area of your lower abdominal muscle. While this exercise does use the abs to a certain extent, the muscle that is being stressed is actually the psoas, which is located deep against the spine and out of sight. As an ab exercise, the knee-up is actually pretty ineffective.
Additionally, overworking the psoas can lead to an aggravation of lower-back problems which many individuals experience.
Trunk flexion is required for effective ab exercises and it is best illustrated in the crunch exercise done in such a way that the pelvis and sternum approach each other during the movement. Once you are 'crunched', if your continue to roll up further (as in a sit-up) you will then be using hip-flexion to finish the motion. Your abs remain contracted to stabilize the trunk but are not otherwise being worked. Only the first part of the sit-up targetted the abs.
To train your abs you need to flex (or contract) your trunk...that's all!
While it might seem that your 'lower abs' are not responding as well as the upper ones, it's really that nature has chosen this location as a great fat-storage area. You simply can't see the results as easily in your lower mid-section as you can in your upper mid-section.
In spite of this assertion, I will be inserting some exercises described as lower ab exercises and you can decide for yourself.
Enough preaching, on with the best 100 abdominal exercises...
Crunch : Decline Bench
Lie on your back on a deline bench with your knees up to form a right angle and your feet under the footpads. Place your hands under your head with your fingers loosley laced together or cross your wrists on your chest as with a simple crunch.
Inhaling slowly throughout the motion and using your abs only - not your hands, curl your head and shoulders off the bench. Fully contract your abdominals and hold for 3 seconds.
Exhaling, slowly lower back until your shoulders just touch the bench.
Form: Keep your butt and lower back in contact with the bench. Don't rock, don't pull with your arms and don't pause at the bottom of the motion.
Lie on your back on the floor with your knees raised and your feet flat on the floor. You can cross your wrists on your chest or lace your fingers behind your head.
Now, as you breathe in slowly, contract your abs, curling your head and upper torso up off the floor until your abs are fully contracted.
Exhale as you slowly lower back down until your shoulders just touch the floor and repeat.
Form: Use only your abs and don't lift your lower back off the floor and don't pause at the bottom. As with all ab exercises, your motion should be slow and deliberate... speed and momentum will lessen the benefit.
Crunch : Machine
This is a crunch from the upright position using a machine rather than gravity to provide resistance. Because you can adjust the resistance, you can increase the burn for the same number of reps as you get stronger by increasing the resistance.
Sit on the machine and hook your feet under the foot pads. Holding onto the strap handles (our machine happens to have straps with handles but many have rigid handles) above your shoulders, exhaling as you pull down, use your abs only to perform a trunk curl until fully contracted.
Reverse the motion, but do it slowly so you continue to feel the resistance until your back is straight up again.
Tip: Don't let the machine pull you back upright without working to resist it. The key is to perform the ab exercise slowly to get the maximum benefit and not to do a zillion crunches quickly.
Increase the resistance only in small increments to avoid injury.
Bent Knee Arms Extended Sit-up
Lie down on a sit-up board and keep your feet under the strap. With your knees bent to about 45 degrees, place your arms straight behind your head with your elbows locked.
Inhale and raise your torso up and over until your hands are above your feet. Your arms will be to the outside of your thighs.
Exhale as you return to the starting position.
Heel High Sit-up
Lie on the floor and place your lower legs on top of a bench with your feet over the side.
Position yourself close enough to the bench so your legs are at about 45 degrees. Put your hands behind your head and inhale as you pull your torso up as closely to your upper thighs as possible.
Then return to the starting position and exhale. Do not swing your body up and down but focus on letting the abdominals and erectors do the work.
Go to Exercise Index for More Ab Exercises