Unique and Fun Abdominal Exercises
By Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS, ACE
After 19 years as a personal fitness coach I have heard it all. The question I am asked most frequently is, "How do I get a flat stomach aka 6 pack?" I am expected to provide information on one magic exercise or supplement that is going to melt the excess fat off their mid section in two weeks. There are many pill pushers and infomercial guru’s that would like you to believe they have the one solution – but it’s just not true.
To get defined abs, it’s going to take work. A lean mid-section takes a combination of good nutrition, cardiovascular conditioning and abdominal training. Those who see the best results combine all three. I’ve hand picked some of my favorite abdominal exercises that are guaranteed to produce results when performed regularly. They should take no more than 15 minutes and over the course of several weeks and months the mid section will be sculpted into a strong and desirable core. These exercises are the ones that helped me regain my six pack within 3 months of having my second child - only 14 months apart from my first child. These exercises are not only safe and effective but they are fun too.
Start with the fact that spot reducing is a myth and hard work and dedication are the only solutions to a fit and firm mid section. Strengthening the torso is guaranteed to improve posture, give the appearance of being 10 pounds lighter, decrease back pain, reduce risk of injuries and give you one awesome midsection!
The following exercises should be performed 2 – 3 times weekly. Engage in each exercise until the point of momentary muscular failure, which should happen between 30 and 90 seconds. Rest for 30 – 60 seconds between exercises. Intermediate or advanced exercises can perform 2 – 3 sets of each abdominal exercise.
Dead Bug - Lie on your back with knees and hips bent at a 90 degree angle. Place arms straight up to the ceiling. Slowly lower the right toe towards the floor stopping just short of touching the floor. At the same time, lower your left arm towards the floor so that your upper arm is near your ear. Pause for a second contracting the abdominals. Return to the starting position and then repeat with the left toe and the right arm. Repeat until failure. This is a great core stabilizing exercise. When this sequence is mastered try and perform the leg movements with your head, shoulders and upper back lifted off the floor.
Toe Taps - This is very similar to the dead bug, but instead of hips and knees being at a 90 degree angle, start with the toes only a few inches off of the floor. Slowly lower the right toe until it’s just short of touching the floor, then follow with the left. Pause for a second before returning the right and then left toe to the starting position. The movement is short – but intense. It’s great for strengthening the abdominal musculature.
Circles - Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Use the muscles of the abdominals and obliques to draw an imaginary circle with the top of your head. Start by contracting the muscles on the right side of your waist, then the abdominals, then the left side of your waist as you glide around in a circle. Do not let the weight of the torso rest down on the floor. Continue to make circles for 30 – 90 seconds in one direction, rest for 30 – 60 seconds and repeat the circles in the opposite direction.
Alphabet - Lie on your back on the floor and picture your head as a writing instrument. Trace the letters of the alphabet on imaginary paper behind your head. Keep your head and shoulders off the floor at all times. Stop when you fatigue or reach 90 seconds - which ever comes first.
Butt Ups - This is a modified plank that is good for the entire torso area. Start by lying on your belly and then lift yourself up onto your toes and forearms. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Drop your knees for one second and then lift back up again. Repeat that pattern if you do not reach fatigue within 90 seconds, hold the pose for longer than 5 seconds. Ultimately strive to hold the pose for 90 seconds without any rest. Tip: For beginners keep the elbows close together and hands clasped on the floor. As you progress, move the elbows shoulder width apart and keep the hands in line with the elbows.
Air Bike - This has been rated as one of the most effective abdominal and oblique exercises and no equipment is required. Begin lying on your back on the floor, then extend one leg out while bringing the other knee in towards the chest. As the right knee is coming towards the chest, bring the left elbow towards the knee. Hold for a second and then switch sides. Repeat for about 90 seconds alternating sides. The lower your leg is extended towards the floor, the more challenging this exercise is. Be sure to move in slow and controlled movements.
Invisible Chair - Start by sitting up with knees bent in towards your chest. Hold on under the knees and lower yourself back until arms are extended. Hold that position for 5 seconds. Pull back up with your arms and repeat until failure. Try to let the abdominals do all of the work and use your arms as a safety net. In time, strength will increase and arms can be removed as if suspending the body in an imaginary recliner.
Rope Climbs - Lie on your back and reach arms straight up for the ceiling. Imagine pulling yourself up on a rope. Reach up with the right hand, then the left. This incorporates both the abdominals and the obliques. If any strain is felt on the neck, support it by holding one had behind the head and reach up with the opposite arm for 10 – 15 reps and then switch sides.
Push Up Superman - Start in a full push up position with hands and toes on the floor. Lift your right arm straight out so that your upper arm is level with your ear and at the same time extend your left leg up so that you foot is at about the same height as your head.
Straight Leg Obliques - Lie on your back with your hands out to the sides and your legs straight up in the air. Slowly lower your legs down to one side as far as you are comfortable with your hips remaining mostly in contact with the floor. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
To get flat and strong abs like some of the super moms including Madonna, Katherine Zeta Jones, and Demi Moore, continue performing these 10 exercises with consistency and determination. Within 6 weeks a significant difference will be noticed in the strength, shape and tone of the entire torso. Be consistent. Be patient and believe a flat stomach is possible.