Six Moves that Guarantee Great Abs
by our Health Coach

Have you ever felt like you will never have great looking abs? You've done thousands of sit ups and crunches and nothing makes your stomach look any better. You are not alone, my friend. But there is an answer.

Before you start an abdominal routine, you should probably know a little about the area that you are focused on. People often think of the "abs" as their stomach, and they want it flat and cut. I actuality, the abs are more than one muscle; they are a group of muscles consisting of the transverse abdominus, the abdominus rectus and the oblique muscles.

The transverse abdominus is virtually hidden under the rectus abdominus, so, it makes no immediate visual difference, but it is very important, in that it supports the other muscles and helps to flatten your entire belly area.

The rectus abdominus attaches the ribs and the pelvis to the sternum. It makes the most obvious visual difference in that it is what visually becomes the "six pack" of abs.

The oblique muscles wrap around your midsection and protect your bones and internal organs. Obliques provide you with overall strength and stability, and are visually part of the thinning at the waist. Because of this, they can easily hide under the layers of fat known as "love handles" that often sit at the waist.

So the goal is to not only strengthen and build the abs, but also to burn off the fat that can so easily cover even the most developed abdominal muscles. Here are six sure-fire ab exercises that will give you a beautiful belly if you just do them correctly and stick to it long enough to reap the rewards.

Bicycle Crunch:
Place an exercise mat, towel or piece of carpet on the floor and lay down on your back, pressing your lower back to the floor. Adjust your knees so they are at a 45-degree angle with the floor and put your hands by your head. Start "pedaling" and on each motion, touch your elbow to the opposite knee, alternating sides. Start small with about 15 repetitions to start.

Hanging Leg Raises:
This is the one exercise that requires a piece of equipment to do correctly. A "captain's chair" is basically a rack whereby you can suspend yourself by your forearms and lift your legs. If you aren't sure what the equipment looks like, do a Google search for "captain's chair exercise equipment" - you'll get the idea. It is important that you use good form - keep your lower back stable - don't arch it at any time during the process.

Grip the handles and stabilize your upper body. Press your back into the pad and lift your knees toward your chest slowly. Keep your lower back against the pad. If you don't, you will be working your hip muscles, not your abs. If you don't feel a burn after a few reps, readjust because you are probably not doing it correctly.

Long-Arm Weighted Crunch:
Lie on your mat, with your feet flat on the floor. With a light weight in each hand, extend your arms straight back. Crunch your rib cage toward your pelvis, while you keep your shoulders still and your arms straight. Don't use your arms for momentum. Repeat 12 to 15 times.

Sitting Crunch:
Sit on the edge of a bench or low stool. While holding the edge of the seat, lean back slightly and extend your legs down and away. Keep your heels off the floor about 4-6 inches. Bend your knees and raise them slowly toward your chest, while you lean your upper body forward. If you are doing it correctly, your thighs will "reach" for your chest. Repeat this motion 11 more times to finish a set. Try to complete three sets.

Twisting Hip Lifts:
Lie on your back, with your knees bent slightly, raise your legs so they are at a 90-degree angle from the floor and directly over your hips. Your hands should be palms down at your sides. Focusing on the lower abs, elevate your feet straight up (toes to the sky) by raising your hips off the floor and rolling them toward your rib cage. While you re lifting, twist your hips to one side. Hold the position for a few seconds and start over. Repeat while twisting to the other side this time. Try to complete 10 reps to each side.

Weighted Crunch:
Lie on your mat, with your feet flat on the floor. Use both hands to hold a weight at one shoulder. Curl your body up at the belly and rotate to the side opposite the weight. Do this eight times, and then switch the weight to the other shoulder. Try to complete three sets on each side.

As wonderful as these ab exercises are, they alone will not remove the fat that hides your fabulous abs. Adding the following additional training to our routine and being careful to eat healthy, well-balanced meals will give you the abs you want much faster than you thought possible.

  • Cardio: 20-30 minutes of sustained aerobic activity 3 to 5 times each week. Walking, swimming and bicycling are good options.
  • Strength/Endurance: 15-45 minutes of resistance movements 3 to 5 times each week. This training should focus on the entire body. STS Training and kettleball lifting are good options.
  • Flexibility: 5-10 minutes of stretching before and after every workout will not only warm up and cool down your muscles (which reduces the risk of injury) but it will also help with posture problems. Yoga or other simple stretches are good options.

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