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What is a good exercise to strengthen my abdominals?

Chair Crunches
Muscles worked: abdominals

  • Starting point: Seated, back straight, arms at sides, hands gripping the bottom of the chair, feet flat on the floor, knees bent and over toes, legs pressed together.
  • Action: Lift your knees straight up, keeping the bottom of your feet parallel to the ground. Exhale while you lift your knees, and inhale as you bring your feet back down to the floor. Complete one 1 set of 10 to 12 repetitions.
  • Tip: For extra workout points, keep your back off the backrest, and do not lean heavily on your arms.
  • Time: Aim for 4 minutes.

Chair Crunches with a Twist
Muscles worked: internal obliques

  • Starting point: Same as regular chair crunches, but instead of gripping the chair, clasp your hands behind your head and push your elbows out to the sides.
  • Action: Lift your left knee straight up. As you do so, twist your upper body to the left side until your right elbow meets your left knee. Return to your starting point. Repeat, only this time lift your right knee straight up and twist your upper body to the right until your left elbow meets your right knee. Complete one set of 5 to 6 elbow-to-knee touches per side.
  • Time: Aim for 4 minutes.

    The Pilates "Series of Five" is a great group of exercises to strengthen the abdominals. To begin, lie on your back on a mat and bring your knees in to your chest.

    Single Leg Stretch:

    1. Inhale to prepare.
    2. Exhale to draw your navel into your spine and curl your head and neck off of the floor.
    3. Inhale and extend your right leg straight out at a 45 degree angle while holding your left knee into your chest with both hands.
    4. Exhale to switch legs.
    5. Continue switching your legs until you’ve completed 8 repetitions on each side.

    Double Leg Stretch:

    1. Follow steps 1-3 of the previous exercise.
    2. Inhale and extend both legs out at a 45 degree angle while extending your arms straight up to your ears.
    3. Exhale and circle your arms down your sides to your knees while you bend your knees back into your chest.
    4. Repeat 8-10 times.

    Single Straight Leg: 

    1. Begin with both knees into your chest and exhale to draw your navel into your spine curling your head and neck off of the floor.
    2. Extend both legs straight up to the ceiling. 
    3. Inhale and lower your left leg 45 degrees towards the floor while holding your right leg behind the thigh.
    4. Exhale as you switch your legs, bringing your hands behind your left thigh and lowering your right leg 45 degrees towards the floor.
    5. Continue switching your legs until you’ve completed 8 repetitions on each side.

    Option: If you are able to complete this exercise with straight legs, try putting your hands behind your calves instead. You should still aim to keep your knees straight.

    Double Straight Leg:

    1. Begin with both knees into your chest and your hands behind your head.
    2. Exhale to draw your navel into your spine curling your head and neck off of the floor.
    3. Extend both legs straight up to the ceiling.
    4. Inhale and lower both legs approximately 45 degrees towards the floor.
    5. Exhale and bring both legs back up to a 90 degree angle.
    6. Repeat 8 - 10 times.

    Criss Cross:

    1. Follow steps 1 & 2 of the previous exercise.
    2. Inhale and extend your right leg out 45 degrees rotating your body toward your left knee (which is bent).
    3. Exhale and extend your left leg out 45 degrees while bending the right leg into your chest and rotating your body towards your right knee.
    4. Continue switching your legs until you’ve completed 8 repetitions on each side.

    Special considerations: If back pain presents itself - bring the legs to a higher position. If you feel neck pain during the exercise -  lower your head back to the mat.

    One simple exercise to strengthen your abdominal muscles is to lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat and arms by your sides.  Tighten your abdominals by pretending you are bracing for a punch in the stomach.  Lift one foot off the floor and hold for two seconds, lower slowly and repeat with the other leg.  This exercise will stabilize your core and prepare you for greater demands in your future training.

    A good exercise to strengthen the abdominals is the prone iso-ab, or plank, exercise. Perform this exercise by following the technique described below. Lie on your stomach with your feet together and forearms placed on the ground. Clench your fists under your shoulders, draw-in the belly and squeeze your butt muscles. Lift your body off of the floor and raise up until your body forms a straight line from head to toe. Hold the top position for a few seconds, return to the start and repeat for the desired number of repetitions. If this exercise is too difficult, other exercises to consider are the quadruped arm opposite leg raise, or the standing cable torso iso-rotation.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.