Admit it – seeing pictures of celebrities’ or athletes’ sexy abs can spur a bit of envy. When it comes to target areas to work, the abs are always in one of the top spots.
Several muscle groups comprise the abs:
- Rectus abdominus – the washboard or 6-pack that lies on top to bend forward
- Internal and external obliques – on the sides of the waist like sets of pockets, these two muscle groups laterally bend and rotate the spine
- Transverse abdominus — this deep horizontal band functions like a girdle
Here are 10 key exercises for effective ab workouts. You don’t have to do them all in one session; but you certainly could. Or choose a few exercises, and vary those you do each workout for the best results. If you don’t have the tools suggested, then consider getting them or doing these at the health club.
- Plank – This looks easy but is not when performed correctly. Get in a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders and feet together. Draw the navel to the spine and keep the head and neck in line with the spine and legs. See how long you can hold the position, rest, and repeat.
- Forearm plank – This is a plank done on the elbows and forearms with the belly drawn in. Hold, rest and repeat.
- Crunches – Do these on a stability ball for more challenge. Bend the knees, keep the feet flat on the floor and place the fingertips lightly behind the head for support. Your shoulders, head and neck should hang off the ball, with your center and hips supported. Crunch up and down slowly.
- Bicycle – A classic that can be done on a stability ball or mat. With knees bent, feet flat on floor and fingers lightly behind the head, slowly rotate the right shoulder toward the left knee and then switch. Emphasize the motion from the waist, not the head and neck.
- Russian twist – Seated on a mat with knees bent, lean back 30-45 degrees and rotate right to left, with arms crossed at chest holding elbows (or holding a dumbbell), twisting side to side.
- Pilates hundred – Lying on your back with your knees bent over the hips (easier) or the legs extended on a diagonal off the floor, pull your navel to your spine, tuck your chin to your chest and lift the torso slightly. Pulse straight arms at your sides with 5 quick inhales and 5 quick exhales. Perform 10 sets of 10 breaths.
- Knee tucks – Sitting with your knees into your chest and your hands behind you, float your feet off the floor and tuck the knees to the torso and then extend the legs straight and lean back. Repeat.
- Scissors – Lying on your back, extend legs straight and hold the right calf while lifting the head and neck and scooping the abs. Hover the left leg straight above the mat. Pulse the right leg in with two inhales, then pulse the left leg in with two exhales; repeat.
- Woodchops – Standing with feet apart and holding one dumbbell in both hands, reach up over the left shoulder and forcefully pull the dumbbell down toward the right hip, rotating from the waist and keeping the knees bent. Repeat and then switch sides.
- Side plank with a twist – With right hand and right knee on mat, place left hand behind head and extend left leg. Twist from waist to rotate left shoulder down toward waist, then open and repeat before switching sides. For more challenge, extend both legs.