Abs: Striving for Those Six-Pack Abs (cont.)

Ab Exercises

So let's get to it. Here are the experts' choices on the most effective abdominal exercises. These should be performed two to three times weekly (for beginners, two is plenty to start). Each exercise should be executed until the point of momentary muscular failure, which should happen between 30 and 90 seconds. This is considered one set, which should be no more than 15 to 20 repetitions. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds. Concentrate on performing each exercise slowly with good form. Work up to completing two to three sets of each exercise.

Reverse Crunch: Lie flat on the floor with a neutral spine, with knees at a 90-degree angle, feet a few inches off the floor and legs together, hands by your sides (behind your ears if you're more experienced). Focus on contracting your abdominals to lift your hips up and in toward your rib case. Exhale as you contract; inhale to return to starting position. Done correctly, this exercise isolates the lower half of the rectus abdominis and the transverus.
Bent-Elbow Plank: This exercise works the whole trunk, particularly the transversus abdominis. Start by lying on your belly and then lift yourself up onto your toes and forearms (elbows in line with shoulders) while contracting your abdominals and keeping your back neutral. Hold that position for five seconds, then rest and repeat. Ultimately, strive to hold the pose for 90 seconds without any rest -- for one set. If you're more experienced, you can also do this exercise on your hands and toes. (As a beginner, start on your hands and knees with a neutral spine and simply contract the abdominals on an exhale without moving your back.)
Bicycle: This exercise works your obliques as well as your rectus abdominis. Lie on your back, hips and knees bent at 90-degrees, chest curled over ribs, hands behind your head. Extend the left leg out while bringing the right knee in towards the chest and rotating the left shoulder toward the right knee. Keep the arm from crossing the face. Rotate from the trunk through the center to the other side without dropping your chest. Move in slow, controlled movements without shifting your hips.

If you perform these exercises consistently, says Calabrese, you will notice a significant difference in the strength and tone of your entire torso within six weeks.

"Be consistent," she says. "Be patient and believe a flat stomach is possible."

Published Feb. 24, 2004.
Medically updated March 14, 2005.


SOURCES: Kelli Calabrese (MS, CSCS, ACE), exercise physiologist and president of Calabrese Consulting LLC. Richard Cotton (MA, ACE), spokesman, American Council on Exercise, chief exercise physiologist, myexerciseplan.com. Rich Weil (MEd, CSCS, CDE), exercise physiologist with WebMD.

©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


Last Editorial Review: 3/14/2005 5:31:57 PM