What are the Best Exercises for a toned abs/abdominal region?
Spring has arrived and that means summer is just around the corner. I’m sure that makes many of you just as happy as me! It’s also motivation for many of us to shed some of those winter layers and get into beach-body shape. Desiring a toned, fit physique is normal and for many, the stomach region is a major problem area. Abdominal crunches have become the gold standard of ab exercises, but they may not be doing as much as we think to give us the toned mid-section and strong torso we need to play sports, walk, lift or perform other daily activities.
The problem is in the movement. In an abdominal crunch, we perform technically speaking, a forward flexion of the spine. But a lot of us spend the entire day in a forward flexed position. We sit forward at desks, sit forward at a computer, sit flexed to watch TV, sit flexed to drive, sit flexed at a table to eat… No wonder the typical posture of someone who ages is rounded forward in a “hunch” back posture. Why would we want to strengthen our body in a direction that we really should be trying to move out of? It makes sense that we’d want to try to counteract and minimize these forward forces. I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t be doing any abdominal crunches. But you should compliment these crunch exercises with more functional and appropriate movements such as the following exercises. Keep this in mind –there is no perfect abdominal exercise. A variety of different movements and exercises is best.
Perform the following best exercises for toned abs 3-4 times per week!
a) Take your shoes off. Lie on your back with your feet on the floor and both legs bent. Place your hands on your abdominals and contract them so that your abdominal cavity is concave (pulled inwards). Stabilize your spine throughout the entire movement. Start by slowly sliding one foot out over the floor until the leg is almost straight. Then slowly slide it back into the starting position. Then attempt the same movement with the opposite leg. Throughout the entire exercise, your two key reference points are that your abdominals must stay pulled inwards and your vertebrae (back) must not move. Your back should be completely stabilized and no arching or flexing of the spine should occur at any time.
b) If this exercise becomes easy, intensify the movement by sliding one leg out while the other leg is sliding in so both legs are moving simultaneously.
c) If this becomes easy, intensify the movement by sliding both legs out and in at the same time. Perform any variation of these exercises for 1.5 minutes without stopping.
Abdominal Alternating Leg Extension:
a) Lie on your back and lift your legs up, bent at the knee. Position your legs with a 90-degree angle at the knees and hips so your upper thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and brace your spine. Slowly extend one leg out to a 45-degree angle while the other leg remains still. Return the leg to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
b) If the exercise is too challenging, do not lower to 45-degrees. If you want to intensify the movement, lower the leg closer to the floor but remember your reference points at all times. Repeat 8-15x each side.
Abdominal Alternating Leg Lowers:
a) Lie on your back and lift your legs up, bent at the knee. Position your legs with a 90-degree angle at the knees and hips so your upper thighs are perpendicular to the floor and your lower legs are parallel to the floor. Tighten your abdominal muscles and brace your spine. Keeping your knees at 90-degrees, slowly drop one heel towards the floor while the other leg remains still. Return the leg to the starting position and repeat with the other leg.
b) If the exercise is too challenging, do not lower all the way to the floor.
c) If you’d like to intensify the movement, you can add your arms so that as one leg lowers to the ground, both arms also lower to the ground and as the leg lifts, both arms lift. In this option, both the legs and arms are moving, but the spine must still remain stabilized. Repeat 8-15x each side.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Keep your abdominals contracted, your chest lifted up and out and your shoulders back. Maintain this position and slowly recline backwards a few inches. Hold for 5 seconds and release. Repeat this 8-15x.
Note: We are starting our Spring Makeover Challenge soon. It’s a fun and friendly competition to help inspire you to take the actions necessary to lose weight and get in great shape for summer. Sign up now before teams fill up! Click HERE to sign up!
Yours in Health & Fitness,
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