A flat, tight, beautiful stomach seems to be a goal for just about everyone who walks through the door of a fitness club. For those of you who have just begun your quest to create a healthier and fitter you it is important to know where to begin and what to do to tighten and tone your stomach. Like the rest of our 101 series, we have some fantastic exercises to get you started. The difference with this part of the 101 series is that for your core and abs we are taking you away from resistance training with machines and onto the exercises mat…well for the most part anyway.
Basic Crunches, planks, bicycles and knee raises are challenging movements you can do to help strengthen and tone your stomach muscles.
You may have heard of some or all of them, and you may have even tried these exercises in the past. However, our TOP TIPS for abs and core offers some key points that can make a big difference in the effectiveness of the following exercises. Make sure you bookmark or save today’s article just in case you need a quick refresher when you are actually adding these exercises into your workout at your local LA Fitness. This way you can refer back to our Core Work Outs and Ab Exercises 101 on your mobile device whenever you need to!
Crunches – Less is more when you are doing crunches. As opposed to your traditional “sit-ups,” your range of motion is much smaller when doing a crunch.
- Just bring your shoulder blades off of the ground, while keeping your lower back in contact with the floor or mat.
- Place your fingers behind your ears instead of putting your hands behind your head. This prevents you from pulling on your head and creating torque on your neck.
- REALLY FOCUS on tightening your stomach muscles during the exercise, and do not arch your lower back. If you begin to feel it in your back, then your abs are not doing the work.
- Keep your head and chin in the same place for the entire exercise. Pretend as if you were holding an orange or a tennis ball under your chin. Your head and neck should not move during a crunch.
- DO NOT relax on the way down. Keep your stomach muscles activated during the entire movement.
- Focus on doing as many reps as you can until your abs are tight. Don’t worry about doing a predetermined number.
Planks – This is an isometric or held exercise, so you won’t actually be moving at all to perform this core workout. Once you are in position, you simply hold that position to work your abs and core muscles. Okay, well it isn’t actually THAT simple, but it is an excellent exercise!
- Make sure not to arch your lower back. This is VERY important.
- It is so important that as second reminder…DO NOT ARCH YOUR LOWER BACK. If you feel it in your back, then you are not in proper position.
- Keep your body as straight as possible, like a board or plank!
- Tighten your stomach muscles during the entire exercise.
- It is normal to shake a bit as your body gets used to using these muscles
- It is normal to feel your shoulders fatigue as well.
- Use a mirror or friend to help you get into position. It can be difficult to know if you are in proper form until you become familiar with the plank position.
Bicycles – Cross over movements, like this exercise, integrate your oblique muscles. This helps work your entire abdominal muscle group.
- Position your hands across your chest and on the opposite shoulder of each hand (as seen in the picture provided).
- Keep your bent knee at a 90 degree angle. Do not let your heel drop, and do not bring your knee past your hip toward your chest.
- A slight bend at the knee of your extended knee is fine.
- Keep the foot of your extended leg 4 to 10 inches above the floor or mat.
- Point each elbow toward the opposite 90 degree knee. DO NOT try to touch your elbow to your knee. Just use it as a way to aim your cross-over motion.
- Try not to roll or rock from left to right or vice versa. Let your abs do the work.
- Don’t worry about numbers. Just keep in form. If you can only do a few, don’t worry, you will add reps the more you do bicycles.
Knee Raises – It’s all in the hips…well kind of anyway.
- When you bring your knees up, pull your hips away from the back support slightly by contracting your stomach muscles.
- Control the movement. Slow and steady equals a flat stomach.
- Keep your knees straight in front of you and bring your knees up to the height of your hips or just slightly past your hips.
- Do not relax on the way down. Control the movement with your stomach muscles and once your legs are extended bring your knees up again without relaxing.
- Again, don’t worry about reps, just do as many as you can, and add as many sets as you need to in order to safely fatigue your abs.
- Don’t let your shoulders scrunch up to your ears, and maintain good posture.
There are a ton of great ab exercises, but we don’t want to overwhelm you. So get going with these four core exercises, and come back for part 2 for some more ab defining workouts.