the 10 best ab exercises

by Tiina
(Canberra, Australia)

1. leg lifts. Targets lower abs and protects neck and upper back. This is the easiest/beginners version. 2-4 are progressively more difficult.
Starting position supine, knees bent at 90 degree angle, head and neck on the floor (use a rolled up towel behind neck or head if neck hyper-extends to keep spine straight).

Press lower back to floor (neutral position), lift one leg keeping knee bent to bring lower leg parallel to floor (table top position), lower leg and then lift other leg. Repeat,keeping lower back in neutral position. There should be no sideways movement as you switch from one leg to the other. Stop when you feel your back start to arch. If you can do more than 10 of these progress to version 2.

2. double leg lifts. Same as for version 1. but lifting both legs together to the table top position and lowering again. Repeat. Stop when you feel your back start to arch. If you can do more than 10 of these progress to version 3.

3. Single leg lowers. Starting with both legs in the table top position, lower back in neutral position, lower and straighten one leg to tap heel to the floor and return to table top position. Repeat with other leg. Stop when you feel your back start to arch. If you can do more than 10 of these progress to version 4.

4. Double leg lowers. Same as for version 3. but lowering both legs together. Stop when you feel your back start to arch. If you can do more than 10 of these you have killer lower abs!

5. Hover. Plank. Prone hold. Good one to test your ab and back strength with a stop watch.

6. Side hover. Lying on your side, resting on bent arm (make sure upper arm is vertical), lift your body off the floor. Use the edge of the mat or a broomstick to make sure you're lying nice and straight before you lift up. Once up, straighten and lift other arm so palm is facing forward, fingertips to the ceiling. Hold for as long as you can. Repeat on other side. I like this one because it puts your body at a different angle and really gets those obliques. I recommend doing the hover first, then a side hover for each side.

7. Bicycle crunches. Lying supine, legs straight, hands resting gently behind neck, bend one knee towards opposite shoulder while simultaneously raising shoulder towards that knee. Keep head back to keep neck in alignment with spine. Lower and repeat on other side. When your shoulder and knee are crunched as close together give an extra squeeze to work those abs before lowering.

8. Cable crunches. Use the tricep pull down rope attachment. Kneel with your back to the stack and hold the rope on top of your shoulders. Crunch forward to lift the stack. I like this one because it's really difficult to wrench your neck, it is good if you don't like to or can't lie on the floor. It is good to build up very weak abs (by choosing a light weight to start with) and equally good if you want to strengthen already strong abs (by choosing a heavy weight). Also good for options of whether you want to do 4-6 reps or 20-30 reps or anything in-between simply by adjusting the weight.

9. Reverse crunch. Lying supine, bend legs and use a smooth movement to roll your back to bring your knees towards your head (keeping your head on the floor) and lower with a controlled smooth movement. I like any ab exercises where neck and upper back is protected. Best way to do this is on a good incline bench where you can hold onto it behind your head. Adjust the incline to make the exercise more challenging.

10. Sit to stand. This is more a hip flexor strengthening exercise and I like it because it looks so cool! Start in classic sit up position, have a friend stand on your feet facing you and ask them to be ready to give you a hand up if you need it. Explosively sit up and stand. As you get stronger you can do this with weights on your feet and with no helping hand :)

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