The abdominals are a very important muscular structure because they support both the back and the torso from which most movements originate. Besides assisting with coordination and balance, a fit set of 6-pack abs just look great and are a physical symbol of a healthy and strong body.
Many abdominal exercises only address the main groups of ab muscles which are the rectus abdominus, transverse abdominus and the obliques. However, in order to get the most benefit of a strong and productive core that sufficiently supports the back and protects vital organs, an abdominal workout needs to incorporate exercises that address the entire core structure.
The following abs exercise routine takes only 10 minutes to complete and is designed to work out your entire core for maximum core strength. You should complete two sets by either doing them for each exercise allowing yourself a 30 second break between, or complete one set of the entire circuit immediately followed by a second set and allowing a 30 second break between each exercise.
The American Council on Exercise has ranked bicycle crunches as the number one abdominal exercise for the rectus abdominus (the group of muscles which form the coveted 6-pack) and number two for the obliques (side muscles). Use an exercise mat pay attention to performing this exercise correctly as it can produce strain in the lower back. It is best to do bicycle crunches slowly, especially if you are just beginning.
Lay on your back on an exercise mat, lift your bent legs up and over you and place your open hand behind your head. Begin rotating your legs like you’re peddling a bicycle. As one knee approaches your chest, move the opposite elbow to that knee and repeat with the other knee and elbow.
Do not pull on your neck with your hands. If you find yourself doing so, take your hands away from behind your head. Also, do not allow your back to arch, but keep it flat against the floor. Perform 10-12 repetitions with each leg and increase as you become stronger.
Swiss Ball Crunches
A study by the American Council on Exercise conducted in 2001 concluded that crunches done on a Swiss ball were much more effective at strengthening core muscles than crunches performed on the floor. Swiss ball crunches have been ranked by the ACE as third overall for their ability to effectively develop the rectus abdominus. Also, because this abdominal exercise is performed on a Swiss ball, surrounding core muscles are also engaged to help maintain balance.
To perform Swiss ball crunches, lay with center of your back on a Swiss ball. Place your feet on the floor in a spread out position and place your open hands behind your head. Lift up about 45º and release. Do not allow your back to arch when laying back, but keep it straight instead. Also, do not pull on your head with your hands.
Complete 15-20 crunches and increase repetitions as you get stronger. You can also shorten the width of your feet placement to increase the difficulty of the exercise.
Lying Glute Pushups
This is another ab exercise which utilizes a Swiss ball and effectively targets the muscles of your butt and back. Lay down with your back on an exercise mat and your feet resting on a Swiss ball. Press down onto the ball with the heels of your feet and lift your butt up and off the floor until your body forms a straight line from your feet to your shoulders.
Hold your body in this straight plane for 60 seconds and release. This is considered one set.
Forearm planks are an excellent core exercise that targets the abs and back as well as the shoulders and chest.
To perform the exercise, get into a pushup position on an exercise mat only rest on your forearms instead of your hands. Raise your bodyweight onto your toes and forearms until your body is parallel with the floor.
Hold your body in this straight plane for 60 seconds and release. This is considered one set. For greater development of overall core muscles, try forearm planks on a Swiss ball.