Abs/Core Body Strengthening:

There are many ways to give your abs a great workout and develop your core body strength. Variety is key - do a different ab workout each time. Abs, like other muscle groups, should be given at least 48 hours rest between workouts to rebuild, tone, and become stronger. Below are some of our favorites to try.

Beginner Abs: Head and shoulder curls - Lie on your back with your legs bent. Touch your fingertips together behind your head at the base of your skull. Keeping your lower back pressed against the floor and using your abdominal muscles, raise your head and shoulders off the floor at a 30-degree angle. Important: Keep your spine, neck, and head in a straight line, and don't jerk up and forward. Breathe in as you raise your torso. Hold this position for a count of five, then exhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat this 10 to 15 times.

Intermediate Abs: Sit-ups with arms crossed - Lie on your back with your knees bent and your arms crossed over your chest, each hand grasping the opposite shoulder. Curl up to a sitting position, then down to the starting position. Repeat 10 to 15 times.

Advanced Abs: Sit-ups with fingers laced behind your neck - Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet placed one foot apart. Clasp your hands together behind your neck, with your fingers interlaced. Curl up to a sitting position and touch your right elbow to your left knee. (Be careful not to pull your head up with your hands, to avoid strain or injury.) Return to the starting position. Curl up to a sitting position and touch your left elbow to your right knee. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 to 25 times.

Crunches - Proper Technique:

1. Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.

2. Leave your arms at your sides, if you're a beginner. (The further away your arms are from your belly, the harder the exercise will be. As you get stronger, you may want to cross your arms over your chest or place your fingertips behind your ears.)

3. Contract your abdominal muscles, squeeze your buttocks together and tilt your pelvis up.

4. Slowly curl your head up, just until your shoulder blades lift off the floor.

5. Ease back down. Repeat 10 times, being sure to exhale as you curl up and inhale as you release. Be sure not to swing your elbows forward and yank on your head, since this can place harmful stress on your neck. Concentrate on the muscles you're working, being sure to keep your lower back pressed into the floor.

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To work different parts of the abdominals, try these crunch variations:

Alternating angles. To work the obliques, the muscles on the sides of the stomach, perform the crunch at alternating angles, reaching with the shoulder (not the elbow) across the body to the opposite knee. Repeat on the other side.

Knees up. To work the lower abdominals, bring the knees up toward the chest, forming a 90-degree angle with the body. Using only the lower abdominals and not the legs or hips, bring the knees slightly toward the chest as you exhale. Return to the starting position. Remember, this is a very small movement. Don't try to bring the knees up to the face.

Do these exercises two to three times daily for optimum results. Do 10 repetitions each of crunches forward, then to the right, then to the left, and you'll see a remarkable improvement.

How to Get the Abs You Want: Cardio exercise five times a week for 45 minutes and strength training at least twice a week, including your abs. Combined, these exercises will burn calories throughout the day, making you leaner. You also need to limit the fat in your diet which will reduce the overall amount of fat on your body and in your midsection. Treat your abs (stomach muscles) like any other muscle group and train them just two or three times a week, but train them hard.

Here are five exercises that will help you get the abs of your dreams:

1. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Fold your hands behind your head. Curl your torso forward until you feel the small of your back flatten out on the floor. Keep your elbows back. Use your hands to cradle your head and take strain off of your neck. Do not pull yourself up with your arms. Slowly ease your torso back down to the floor. Exhale on the way up, inhale on the way down. Do 15-25 repetitions.

2. Lie on a bench. Reach overhead and hold onto the bench. Raise both legs in the air until your toes are pointing at the ceiling. Keep your knees slightly bent. Raise and lower your hips without lowering them all the way down to the bench. Do 15-25 repetitions.

3. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and hold your arms straight in front of you. Keeping your arms low, lean back until you're halfway to the floor. Lift your feet off the floor and extend your legs until they are straight. (Keep your legs low.) Hold for up to 30 seconds. Do 1-10 repetitions.

4. Lie on the floor with your knees bent. Raise your legs so that your hips and knees are bent at 90 degrees. Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows on the floor. Twisting from the waist, bring your right elbow towards your left knee, and at the same time, extend your right leg. (Your left elbow should remain on the ground.) Complete the set on one side, then change to the other. Note: Do not alternate. Do 15-25 repetitions.

5. Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet together. Place your hands behind your head. Let both knees gently fall to one side with one leg on top of the other. Keep your elbows wide and curl straight up. Repeat on the other side. Do 15-25 repetitions.

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Sit Backs: Sit with knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and a straight back. Extend arms straight ahead and slowly lean back, while keeping back straight. Once you feel like your feet are going to lift off the floor, stop. Hold for one second, and then rise to the starting position. Do 15-25 repetitions.

Knee Extension Crunches: Lie down like for regular crunches, but you bring opposite knee to meet opposite elbow and straighten other leg. *Bring bent right knee up to meet left elbow, for a crunch, at the same time, straighten the left leg, then straighten right leg as you bring right elbow and left knee together - alternate. Do 25 on each side for a total of 50 repetitions.

A Final Note on Abs: Doing 500 crunches a day will not guarantee you six-pack abs. Remember that you also need to cut back on excess calories. Improved muscle definition in your abdominals comes from losing body fat and not just from increasing muscle size. For optimal results you need to find the right balance between exercise and a healthy diet. Weight training and crunches will tone your abdominals, but unless you address your total calorie intake, your six-pack abs will be hiding under a layer of fat.

Select A Workout:    Upper Body    |    Abs/Core    |    Lower Body

Injury Prevention

Cross Training    |    Massage    |    Strengthening    |    Stretching    |    Yoga

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