The Best Ab Exercises to Tone Your Tummy


Dread doing endless sit-ups? You’re in luck. Experts say that classic sit-ups are not the best way to strengthen your abs. Try the following exercises to tone up your abdomen.

Remember that abdominal exercises can help tighten your tummy, but they may not make your stomach flatter. For a healthy-looking midsection, you need to combine ab work, a healthy diet, and regular aerobic exercise.

Top tummy toners
Most experts recommend the following exercises as being safer and more effective than sit-ups for tummy toning:

•Bicycle maneuver. Lie on the floor on your back. With your arms on the floor, bend your elbows and put your fingers under your head. Bring your legs straight up toward the ceiling and bend your knees to a 45-degree angle. Then begin to move your legs as though you are pedaling a bicycle. As your right knee comes toward your head, touch your left elbow to it, then touch your right elbow to your left knee as it comes forward. Breathe evenly throughout the exercise.
•Crunch on an exercise ball. Slowly lie back on an exercise ball with your feet on the floor and your knees bent. Make sure the ball is firmly under your lower back and your thighs and torso are parallel to the floor. Fold your arms across your chest. Tuck your chin toward your chest. Tighten your abs to raise your torso (but no more than 45 degrees). To improve your balance, place your feet farther apart. Keeping your feet close together will help work your oblique (side) muscles. Exhale as you lift, inhale as you lower your torso.
•Captain’s chair. This piece of equipment, found in most gyms, is among the best for building the stomach muscles. To do the exercise, stand with your back against the back pad and grab the handholds. Use your arms to hold your body up. Slowly bend your knees, bringing your legs toward your chest. Make the movement slow and controlled as you raise your knees and then lower them again.
The proper crunch
Crunches – not to be confused with sit-ups – are excellent for toning your midsection, too. Doing a vertical crunch or a reverse crunch may be your best bet because these moves put less stress on your back than regular crunches.

•Vertical crunch. Lie on the floor on your back. Bend your elbows and put your hands behind your head. Cross your legs at the ankles. Then bring your legs up with the knees slightly bent. At the same time tighten your abdominal muscles to raise your torso toward your knees. Keep your chin off your chest. Lower your legs and torso. Repeat.
•Reverse crunch. Lie on the floor on your back. Put your hands under your head or stretch them out at your sides with palms on the floor. Cross your legs at the ankles. Raise your feet off the ground, and bend your knees until your thighs are at a 90-degree angle to your body. Tighten your abs to bring your hips up off the floor. This is a small, rocking movement. Don’t swing the legs.
Ab machines: to buy or not to buy?
Many abdominal exercise machines are no better or only slightly better than doing crunches, experts say.

Combining strategies
Note that you need to do abdominal exercises more often than strength training to get toned. Even 5 minutes of ab exercises each day can make the difference. Building ab strength can improve your posture and may help you avoid low back pain.

Note: These exercises are not for everyone, especially those with bone conditions like osteoporosis. And not everyone can do every exercise. It depends on your fitness level and coordination. Always check with your doctor before you start any workout.

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