Although it's certainly true that you can't have a chiseled six-pack unless your diet is top notch, training your abs definitely has an effect on their shape. Let's say you're killing your diet and you're starting to feel lean and mean, (rock on, sister), but without some muscle mass on your rectus abdominus, you won't have much to show off when that belly fat comes off!
Once you've got your macros on lock, the next step is attacking your abs with the same fury you would any other muscle group. If you want etched abdominals, you can't just do a few crunches and call it a day. Growing a six-pack takes time and hard work.
Here are seven fantastic abdominal exercises that will help you build and shape a sexy stomach. Mix and match these moves for your own killer ab workout, or add a few to the end of your normal workouts. Whatever you do, adding these seven moves to your fitness routine means you'll see great results!
EXERCISE 1 Oblique crunches
These guys are a definite go-to for me because they target the love handle area so well.
Although there are many variations of this exercise, I like to lie on my back, cross my left foot over my right knee, and put my hands behind my head. Keeping my lower back pressed into the floor, I lift my shoulder blades off the floor and then curl my upper body diagonally towards my left knee.
The key is to contract your abs and obliques as hard as you can at the top of the movement. Be sure to alternate which leg you elevate so you work both sides of your body equally.
EXERCISE 2 Bicycle Crunches
I really enjoy this exercise because it works every area of the abs. When bicycle crunches are a consistent staple in my ab routine, I see definite improvements in my ab strength. It's a grueling exercise but worth the pain because it builds ab strength and endurance.
To do a bicycle crunch, lie on the floor with your hips bent about 90 degrees and your hands behind your head. Raise your shoulders off the floor and bring your right knee towards your left elbow and extend your left leg out 45 degrees. Continue to alternate by bringing together your opposite knees and elbows.
Keep your shoulders off the floor to maintain tension on your abs and work them much harder. Shoot for a high number of reps?work through the burn that will undoubtedly come!
EXERCISE 3 V-Ups
The V-up is a tremendous movement because your upper and lower abs will get an intense workout. V-ups will definitely push your abs to the limit and leave you feeling really sore the next day. In order to avoid a back injury, though, proper form is essential.
To start, lie on your back and extend your arms straight over your head as if you were diving into a pool. Use your abs to bring your upper and lower body together, forming a "V" shape with your body.
It's not absolutely necessary to touch your toes with your hands during each rep unless you can do so without bending your arms. Exhale as you lower your upper body and legs back to the ground. Do these slowly and with precision. Fast, jerky movements won't benefit your abs or your lower back.
EXERCISE 4 Reverse Crunches
These little guys are awesome for that tough lower-ab area. It's a fairly simple move, but it's often forgotten among fancy machines.
Lie on your back and bring your knees up so they're bent at 90 degrees. Contract the abs and curl your hips off of the floor to bring your knees toward your shoulders. Don't make the mistake of curling all the way up until your weight is on your neck. You don't have to bring your thighs very far up before you'll feel a huge contraction in your lower abs.
EXERCISE 5 Leg Lifts
This is another good lower abdominal exercise. As you do them, you'll feel your abs burning?don't quit! To see big changes in your abs, you need to work through a little pain.
To execute leg lifts properly, lie on the floor with both legs extended and place your hands next to your buttocks with your palms facing down.
Lift both legs off the floor gradually till they are perpendicular to the floor. Hold this position for a second and then slowly lower the legs until they are about 6-8 inches off the floor. Hover the legs in this position for a couple of seconds and then repeat the process. To make this move harder, try keeping your hands behind your head.
EXERCISE 6 Criss-Crosses
(horizontal scissor kicks)
The criss-cross is a fun movement, but it's definitely tough. As you do these little ab burners, keep your lower back on the floor.
Lie on your back and place your hands under your glutes with your palms on the floor. Keeping your legs straight, hold your feet a few inches off the floor. Cross your feet over and under for as long as you can, and then try to beat your time each set.
EXERCISE 7 Flutter kicks
This move is a great finisher for any ab workout. Flutter kicks are best used when the abs are already fatigued so you can polish them off in fine fashion.
Lie on your back and place your hands under your glutes with your palms down. Next, raise both legs approximately 20 inches off the floor. Contract your abs and then kick your legs as if you're swimming in water. Kick for your life! When you can't kick any more, you're ready to go home.