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Best ever exercises for great abs

Best ever exercises for great abs

Feeling the bulge lately? Many of us tend to put a few ‘winter pounds’ on our stomach this time of year, safely hidden under woolly jumpers. Those eager visits to the gym seem a lifetime away. So before the fat really gets a grip – it’s time to take some ab action!

Keeping your abs strong is more important than just looking great. The many hours we spend sitting weakens the core, and this in turn makes us more injury-prone. Putting some extra work into building strong abs will increase your agility, boost your flexibility, and make you look great. The great news is that you don’t have to do hundreds of crunches to get the best results. The exercises we have chosen for you will work all three muscle groups of your core to the max in the shortest time.

Quick guide to stomach muscles

The stomach is made up of three core muscle. The rectus abdominus, commonly known as the ‘six pack’, is a long muscle running from your ribs to pelvis. The obliques, which run down both sides of your torso. Lastly, the transverse abdominus, which make up the deepest layers and helps to strengthen the core and minimise back pain.

Bicycle crunch

According to a San Diego study, this is the most effective ab exercise you can do, producing high levels of electrical activity in all three key muscle areas.  It mainly targets the external obliques, while the reverse crunch is great for the lower abs. This move really help achieve that washboard ab look.

  1. Lie on your back with your hands loosely behind your head, lower back pressed into the ground and your legs raised and bent at 90 degrees.
  2. Bring your right knee towards your chest whilst bringing your left elbow towards it, and straightening the left leg (without letting it touch the ground).
  3. Immediately alternate on the other side, and maintain the motion continuously, as if pedalling a bicycle, aiming for 10 – 15 reps at first.
  4. For a more intense workout, try to hold the crunch for two seconds before releasing or working on an incline position.

Tip: To avoid engaging the hip flexors, concentrate on an initial small pelvic tilt. This activates the lower abs before the hip flexors can take over.

Barbell Squat

Lying on your back isn’t always the best way to exercise the core. Your abs actually perform the critical function of stabilising your spine whilst you’re moving. So during a squat your muscle fibres are actually activated at a higher rate than during ‘traditional’ stomach exercises.  Plus you also exercise other muscles including quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves.

  1. Feet shoulder width apart, with the barbell on the back of your shoulders, using a towel to cushion if necessary.
  2. Lower yourself until your thighs are roughly parallel to the floor, ensuring you keep your back straight at all times.
  3. Push energetically back up until you’re back in the initial position. Repeat the action.

Tip: Focus on keeping your abs tight as this provides crucial support to your lower back.

Captain’s Chair

Studies show this is one of the most powerful exercises your can do for your stomach. You will generally find a vertical knee raise machine in most gyms. Alternatively, try holding onto a pull up bar.

  1. Grip the handholds, press your back into the pad and relax your shoulders.
  2. Squeeze your abdominal muscles and lift your knees to your chest whilst breathing out.
  3. Lower legs steadily down again.
  4. If it’s too tricky, try one leg at a time. Or to make it even harder try using ankle weights.

Tip: Begin with low reps, particularly if you have weak stomach muscles. Because of its upright position, you are battling gravity, which puts a significant amount of pressure on the lower abs.

Exercise Ball Crunchie

Performing crunchies on an exercise ball was the third most effective abdominal exercise according to US research which compared different stomach exercises.

  1. Sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Walk yourself forward until you are leaning back and your thighs are parallel to the floor.
  3.  Place your feet firmly and put your arms behind your head. Lean back to arch your back across the ball and open up your chest.
  4. Bend up to bring your upper body towards your knees by squeezing your abs.
  5. Try to keep part of your backside against the ball and keep everything below the hips as stable as possible.
  6. Return to arching your back on the ball whilst keeping your hands behind your head. Aim for 20 reps per set, for three sets.
  7. For more intensity, hold small dumbbells in your hands.

Tip: Keep the curling motion small, around 30 to 40 degrees. Once the curl becomes too big your hip flexors take over the motion.