Having fabulous abs is a dream for both men and women. They are also the most difficult to achieve, in part, because of how people are exercising them. Working only part of the abdominal section, poor breathing and improper form, lack of aerobics, and poor dieting are the leading road blocks to attaining fabulous abs. The abdominals are made of more than just the “belly” region. The middle muscle, rectus abdominis, can be divided into upper and lower regions. Although there is only one muscle, it is important to do exercises that target both the upper and lower regions individually, as it is too large to work thoroughly all at once. There are also the internal and external obliques, which are the side “love handle” areas. These too must be targeted and toned. The abdominal region is made up of a team of muscles which all must be exercised. Although abdominal work is strenuous, it is imperative that you breathe. Exhale during the contraction of the muscle. Every time you tighten up, breathe out. Release all your air, even when working the obliques. If you hold your breath, your muscle will take on a rounded shape, as it tones and tightens around the air in which you are holding. You will not achieve a washboard look. Breathing will also help to ease the pain of the exercise.
Proper form is crucial to exercising, especially when working the abs. Poor form is not only inefficient, but can lead to injuries, especially in the back. Be sure to focus on the muscle you are working. Visualize it tightening and releasing. Quality and not quantity is the key. It is better to do 12 properly formed crunches than 20 improperly formed crunches. Stop immediately if you feel pain or discomfort in your back. It may be necessary to consult a trainer or your doctor to help you find a workout program that is right for you.
Great care and excellent technique are required to strengthen the abdominal muscles with sit-ups.
To be effective, sit-ups must pull the torso upward from a lying position toward the knees, using only the abdominal group.
Often, more powerful muscles (those that flex the legs and hips), do much of the work. This is especially true with straight-leg sit-ups.
For best results, abdominals should be performed slowly with legs resting on a chair/bench, so that legs are bent at 90 degrees.
Twisting at the top of the sit-up movement causes tremendous rotational stress on the lower back which can lead to injury.
When doing sit-ups, never push through back pain. Stop immediately at even the slightest twinge in the lower back.
There are several exercises you can do for abs. Many of the people I work with don’t realize that most abdominal exercises are either ineffective or not needed. To set the record straight on which work and which don’t, I have listed five noteworthy abdominal exercises.
Crunches Most already know how to perform this upper abdominal target exercise. It’s basic, yet highly effective. Perform crunches by lying on a flat surface with your hands either across your chest or behind your head. Contract your abs. Hold for 2 seconds, then return to the starting position. Crunches should be performed in a continuous and controlled fashion.
Side Crunches are basically the same as regular crunches, except the main focus is on the oblique muscles (love handles). The same technique applies, only your crunching to either side of your abs. You should feel the burn of the sides of your abs.
Lying Leg Lifts
This exercise targets the lower abs. Use the same position as crunches. Lying flat on your back, lift your legs 6 – 12 inches off of the ground. Perform repeatedly until you feel the burn in your lower abs.
Hanging Leg Raises
This exercise is another good lower ab target. It’s a little more of an advanced exercise because it requires a strong back, shoulders, and chest (secondary muscles) to prevent swinging on the bar. Start hanging from a bar with your feet dangling freely. Pull them toward your chest in a slow and controlled manner.
The V-crunch is best when performed on a flat bench. It’s another lower ab target. It’s almost like lying leg lifts except your chest is at a 45 degree angle starting out. Sit at the edge of a bench and reach back just enough to support yourself from completely lying on the bench. Once you’re stabilized, bring your knees toward your chest. You basically want to create a V motion when you perform them. For example, one end of the V is your head, the other is your knee. The base of the V would be your abs.