Abdominal and core strengthening is important not only to look fabulous, but also to protect your lower back from strain. You can easily work ab exercises into any workout routine. Here are 5 great ab exercises to get you started.
Cross Body Crunch
Crunches and sit-ups are great for the standard abdominal workout, but with this exercise you can target several areas of the abs at once. Lie down on your back with your knees bent about sixty degrees. Put your hands behind your head. Breathe out, clench your abs, and bring your right elbow up in a crunch while simultaneously bringing your left knee in to meet it. Bring yourself back to starting position and repeat this for the other side. For best results, tell yourself you are bringing your shoulder up, not your elbow, and you will activate more muscles.
You may be familiar with the ubiquitous sit-up, but this workout takes the old standard to a new level. This works best if you start by lying on a workout bench, but the ground will do if that is all you have. Lie on the bench, with your feet flat on the floor on either side, and a barbell with light weights held by both hands over your chest. If you are unsure how much weight you can handle, use an empty bar to start. Now that you are laying the starting position, flex your abdominals and curl up. Simultaneously, push the barbell up over your head. Breathe in as you reverse this motion, bringing the bar back down to your chest and lying back down on the bench.
There is a lot of talk about how effective medicine balls are in your ab workout. This is an exercise that uses a medicine ball to target the sides of your abdomen. You will need an 8-10 pound medicine ball and a large, inflated yoga ball. If all you have is the medicine ball, this can be performed on the ground as well. Start by resting your shoulders on the inflated ball. Your legs should be directly in front of you, with your knees bent for stability. Hold the medicine ball out over your chest, and, without bending your arms, dip the ball to the left, back up to center, to the right and then back up to center.
Exercise Ball Pull-In
If you do own an inflated yoga ball, then the pull-in is an extremely effective exercise to include in your workout. Get down on all fours and then rest the front of your calves on the ball. Breathe out, clench your abs and pull your legs in toward your torso, bringing the ball with you. As it rolls, soon all that will be balanced on the ball will be the front of your feet. Reverse the action to uncurl and push the ball back. Maintaining balance during this exercise is a serious workout for your abs.
This is a variation of a plank exercise, but a little more fun. This requires absolutely no equipment. Start out in plank position, which is like a push-up position but where you are supported by your forearms, not your hands, your feet are together and you are balanced on your toes. Breathe out and raise your buttocks high into the air, clenching your abs to help gain height. Breathe in and return to plank position, being careful not to let your back sag.