Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Athletic Abs: Start working baby!

Ready, set, let's go!!

The most effective ab exercises start with the bicycle, which is the best move for targeting the rectus abdominis (i.e., the 'six pack') and the obliques (the waist), according to an American Council on Exercise study.

How to:

1.Lie on the floor and lace your fingers behind your head.

2.Bring the knees in towards the chest and lift the shoulder blades off the floor without pulling on the neck.

3.Straighten the left leg out while simultaneously turning the upper body to the right, taking the left elbow towards the right knee.

4.Switch sides, bringing the right elbow towards the left knee.

5.Continue alternating sides in a 'pedaling' motion for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.

The captain's chair leg raise is the second most effective move for the rectus abdominis as well as the obliques. You can do a variety of exercises on the captain's chair, which is a rack with padded arms that allows your legs to hang free and can be found in most health clubs and gyms. The key to keeping this move safe and effective is, first, to avoid swinging the legs or using momentum to bring the legs up. Second, keeping the knees bent will help you focus more on the abdominals and less on the hip flexors.
How to:

1.Stand on the chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body.

2.Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards your chest.

3.Don't arch the back or swing the legs up.

4.Slowly lower back down and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.

If you don't have access to a captain's chair rack, you can try a ball roll out as a substitute.  Ab rolls are a challenging exercise that targets all the muscles of the core. This advanced move requires attention to detail to avoid straining the back. Make sure you only roll out as far as you comfortably can. If you feel any strain in the back, back off the exercise or avoid it completely.

How to:
1.Kneel in front of the ball and place the hands on the ball, parallel to one another and with the elbows bent.

2.Contract the abs and pull the belly towards the spine.

3.Slowly roll forward and out as far as you comfortably can, until the feel the abs engage. Don't go so far that you hurt your back or collapse.

4.This move does not involve bending the hips, so keep them straight throughout the exercise.

5.Keeping the body straight, slowly pull your body back using your arms and abdominals.

6.Continue for 1-3 sets of 8-12 reps, avoiding this move if you have any back problems.

7.You can change the difficult of the move by placing your hands closer in or further out.

The exercise ball is an excellent tool to strengthen the abs and is the third most effective move for targeting the rectus abdominis. What makes this move a bit more effective than crunches on the floor is that the legs are often involved in floor crunches. On the ball, the abs do more work.
How to:

1.Lie on the ball, positioning it under the lower back.

2.Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head.

3.Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips.

4.As you curl up, keep the ball stable (i.e., the ball shouldn't roll).

5.Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.

And this is only the beginning!

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