As one of your major muscle groups, toning the abs is an essential part of any workout routine. Core exercises train the muscles in your hips, lower back and abdomen. Stronger core muscles will also protect you from back injuries and improve your posture. In a study conducted at the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University, abdominal exercises such as the captain’s chair, the bicycle maneuver and the vertical leg crunch scored high marks based on the amount of abdominal muscle activity and body rotation that they produced.
Exercise Ball Crunch
To perform this routine you need an exercise ball. Start by sitting on the ball with your feet placed flat on the floor. Roll the ball back gently until you are lying across it. Your thighs and torso should be parallel with the floor. Tuck your chin slightly in and keep your arms crossed over your chest. From this position, gently raise your upper torso by contracting your lower abdominal muscles. Lift your torso to approximately 45 degrees before gently returning to your starting position. Exhale with each contraction and inhale as you relax. Continue for a fixed amount of reps.
This exercise is done with a piece of gym equipment know as the captain's chair. Stand straight between the hand grips of the chair and hold them firmly. Your lower back should be pressed lightly against the chair's back pad. From this position, gently lift your knees toward your chest. Avoid swinging your hips, by using your abdominal muscles to control your motion. Lower your legs. Do three sets of 10 to 15 reps.
The bicycle crunch can be done almost anywhere and does not require any gym equipment. To do the bicycle crunch, start by lying flat against the floor with your back to the ground. Keep your hands beside your head. From this position, gently raise your left knee toward your upper torso. In the same motion, rise and touch your left knee with your right elbow. Return to your starting position and repeat with your alternate limbs. Keep your breathing even and relaxed all through the routine. Do three sets of 15 to 30 reps.
Vertical Leg Crunch
Lie on the floor with your back against the ground. Cross your legs at the ankles and raise them in the air with a slight bend in your knees. Keep your hand tucked behind your head. With your legs still elevated, gently raise your upper torso toward your knees by contracting your abdominal muscles. Hold for a one count, then return to your starting position. Exhale as you rise and inhale when you relax your muscles.
Lying Leg Raise
Lie on your back with your hands by your side or under your butt. Elevate your feet slightly of the ground. Your knees should be slightly bent. From this position, gently raise your legs to approximately 30 degrees. Use your muscles to control your movement and exhale as you lift your legs. Gently lower your legs to the starting position without allowing them to touch the floor. Pause and then repeat the sequence. Avoid moving your chin during the routine.
- Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images
This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.