The best thing about ab exercises is that you don’t need any equipment at all to have a terrific abdominal workout. And if your hopes and aspirations are to have a washboard stomach, these exercises will strengthen your core muscles efficiently and effectively.
The exercises below will strengthen and define your abdominal muscles, and can be done as part of your daily calisthenics routine.
Each exercise targets a different part of the abdominal muscle group, so rotate through the exercises during the week to get the best overall workout.
Use the pictures and descriptions to help guide you through the exercise. As with any exercise use good judgment so as to not injure yourself by overexertion or by trying to do too much too soon.
Gradual implementation will get you to where you want to be!
Crunches are the traditional ab exercise of choice for most people, and it’s a great starting point if you’re beginning an exercise routine or returning back from some time off.
Crunches work all three of your primary abdominal muscles: rectus abdominis, external oblique, and internal oblique.
While lying with your back on a level and flat surface, bend your legs at the knee with your feet on the ground. Place your hands behind your head and lift your back off of the ground up towards your thighs. Bringing your body just a few inches off will really work out your ab muscles. Do this exerciseslowly. Inhale as you lower yourself to the ground & exhale as you crunch.
To avoid straining your neck muscles, put your chin against your chest and keep it there as you exercise.
Start with one set of 10-15 repetitions and gradually build up to more. It’s better to work on slow repetitions that it is to work up to a large quantity of fast repetitions.
Raised Leg Crunches
As you progress with the crunch, it’s fun to add some variations and increase the difficulty, thus raising the benefit of the exercise.
Try doing the same exercise as above, except this time raise your feet off of the floor as pictured below. Once you’ve tried that for a few weeks or so, you can raise your feet straight up in the air - called V-ups.
In the same starting position as the crunch, raise your back off of the ground taking your elbow to your opposite knee.
This type of crunch targets the oblique muscles, or the area where our infamous “love-handles” reside!
And just like the crunch exercise, do the movements slowly, exhaling while you do the crunch, inhaling while you lower yourself back down.
The bicycle crunch is a terrific overall ab exercise and it won’t take many repetitions of these to feel the burn.
Lying on your back, place your hands behind your head and your feet 6 inches off of the floor. Begin by pulling your left knee towards your right elbow, then straighten out your left leg and bring your right knee towards your left elbow. That is one repetition.
The movement of your legs should be similar to peddling a bicycle. The movement of your elbows should be done by pulling your back off the ground, not by bending or straining your neck.
Try 10-25 repetitions to start off with, depending on your ability. This is more productive than the traditional crunch and is a nice ab exercise to mix into anyone’s fitness routine.
This simple ab exercise is a favorite punishment drill for coaches and drill instructors around the globe. But don’t let that deter you, because it’s also a very effective way to strengthen your lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors.
Lying flat on your back, raise your feet 6 inches off of the floor. Raise your left leg straight up while your right leg remains 6 inches off of the ground, lower your left leg and then raise your right leg up into the air.
It helps to do this exercise to a cadence. Try doing this in a four count manner, for example (leg leg up -1; left leg down-2; right leg up-3; right leg down-4). The cadence would go like this: 1…2…3…1…1…2…3…2…1…2…3…3…and so on.
Again, these are a great lower ab exercise. Make sure your feet stay off of the ground for all of the repetitions. Try them out!
A variation of the leg lift exercise, the scissors exercise also works the lower abdominals and hip flexor muscles.
We start with our feet 6 inches off of the ground like the leg lifts, but instead of raising and lowering our legs, we move them laterally (open and close).
Be sure to keep your legs off of the ground for all of repetitions.
Seated Row Crunches
For the really ambitious exercise enthusiasts out there, the seated row is a challenging ab exercise that works all three abdominal muscle groups.
In the same starting position as the above two exercises, raise your back off of the floor with your arms straight out in front of you, as you’re raising your back, pull your knees in towards your chest while keeping your feet 6 inches off of the floor.
When you conduct these motions together it looks like you’re rowing a boat. It’s a tough one, but it’s a great overall ab exercise to add to your routine when you get bored with the others!
If you’re first starting out with these use your arms to “prop” yourself up and do the leg portion of the exercise as pictured below. As you get more comfortable, try doing the arm movements.
The above ab exercises can be done almost anywhere for just a few minutes each day. Having strong core muscles will help you in everyday movements and life. It will also help take the strain off your back muscles and reduce the chance of back injury.
If you want your abdominal muscles to be visible, you’ll need to have a pretty lean body fat percentage. Some people have a harder time losing this midsection fat more than others. But if your goal is to have a “6-pack” or “ripped” abdominals, be sure that you focus an equal or stronger effort on your eating habits to lose any extra weight.
Alternate the types of ab exercises during your routine for maximum benefit. This will allow you to target different muscle groups while adding some change to keep your routine fresh.
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