How to Work your Abs

Your abdominal muscles are located between your ribs and pelvis on the front of your body. They support your trunk, allow movement, and are partially responsible for holding your internal organs in place.

Four Main Abdominal Muscle Groups

Transversus abdominus

The deepest of all abdominal muscles, the transversus abdominus stabilize your trunk and maintain internal abdominal pressure.

Rectus abdominus

Located between your ribs and pubic bone at the front of your pelvis, this muscle controls movement between your ribcage and pelvis. In very fit people, this muscle is also known as the “six pack.”

External oblique muscles

Located on each side of the rectus abdominus, these muscles allow you to twist your trunk.

Internal oblique muscles

Located just inside your hipbones, beneath your rectus abdominus, these muscles also allow you to twist your trunk, but in opposition to your external oblique muscles.

Abdominal Exercises

Plank

Start by kneeling on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs back one at a time to come into plank position (the “up” part of a pushup). Engage your abdominal muscles. Your body should be a straight line from your heels to the crown of your head. Hold for as long as you can (target one minute), then drop back to starting position. Do 3 repetitions.

Abdominal Hold

Start by sitting tall on the edge of a chair and your hands on the edge by your sides with your fingers pointing away from you. Engage your abdominal muscles and bring your feet off the floor. Lift your butt off the chair. Hold this for as long as you can (target 10 seconds). Gently lower yourself down and repeat. Do 3 sets of 10 repetitions.

Windshield Wiper

Start by lying on your back with your knees bent at 90 degree angles. Straighten your arms by your sides and lengthen through your fingertips. Press the backs of your shoulders against the mat and slide them away from your ears. Engaging your deep abdominal muscles, inhale as you gently move both your knees to the right. Then exhale and return your knees to center. Repeat with your knees to the left. That’s one repetition. Continue for 8 repetitions.

Standing Side Crunch

Start by standing, holding an exercise ball overhead, elbows bent and out to your sides, and feet shoulder-width apart. Lift your right knee to the side as you pull your right elbow down to meet it. Return to starting position. Repeat on your left side. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Roman Twists

Start by sitting in a V-shape with your legs and torso off the floor, and your bottom on the ground. If this is too hard, keep your legs lifted, but bend your knees. Holding a medicine ball in both hands, twist your upper body from the right, to the left, and back, bringing the medicine ball across your body as you twist. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Bridge Opposite Arm-Leg Reach

Start by lying on your back with your right knee bent, right foot flat on the floor, and your left leg extended toward the sky. Reach toward the sky with your right arm while keeping your left arm down by your side. Keeping your hips and shoulders static, open your left leg to the left and your right arm to the right. Engage your abdominal muscles, then return your left leg and right arm back to center. Do 12 repetitions, then switch sides and repeat.

Lower Belly Leg Reach

Start by lying faceup with your knees bent at 90 degrees, hands behind your head, feet off the floor and engaged abdominal muscles. Keeping your knees stacked over your hips, lift your shoulders and crunch up. Inhale and stay in this position for 5 seconds. When you exhale, straighten your legs to 45 degrees and hold for 5 seconds while engaging your lower abdominal muscles. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Bicycle

Start by lying on your back, your hands behind your head and your knees in to your chest. Engage your abdominal muscles as you lift your shoulder blades off the ground. Continue engaging your abdominal muscles as you twist your torso to your right, bringing your left elbow towards your right knee while your other leg straightens. Switch sides, bringing your right elbow towards your left knee while your right leg straightens. Continue alternating sides for 3 sets of 16 repetitions.

Reverse Crunch

Start by lying on your back and hands on the floor beside you, palms down. Bring your knees in towards your chest until they’re bent to 90 degrees, feet side by side or crossed. Engage your abdominal muscles as you curl your hips off the floor, reaching your legs towards the sky. Gently lower your hips back to the floor. Do 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Oblique Crunches

Start by lying flat on your back, knees bent at right angles and twisted to the right. Place your fingertips to just behind your ears. Engage your abdominal muscles and curl up just enough to lift both your shoulders off the ground a few inches. Hold these position and engage your abdominal muscles as forcefully as you can while you exhale. Repeat for 15 repetitions before switching to the other side. Do 3 sets.

Scissor Lifts

Start by lying on your back and legs in the air, perpendicular to your torso. Engage your abdominal muscles as you lower your right leg towards the ground, but not touching the ground. Hold for a few seconds, keeping your hips stable, your abdominal muscles engaged and your back flat on the ground. Swing your right leg up, then lower your left leg to the ground. Do 10 repetitions on each leg.

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