It used to be that we were taught the only way to keep your tummy flat was to do sit-ups. It turns out there are a lot more diverse ways to tone up core muscles. Stomach exercises are not just sit ups anymore. There is a wide variety of stomach exercises that work not only the abs but the obliques as well, providing a strong, great looking core! Try some of these stomach exercises to get yourself looking and feeling great!
The standard stomach exercises still work. Sit-ups are great. They work the central abdominal muscles. You can feel them working very quickly, which makes endurance a little harder. The downside to sit-ups is that they can be hard on the back and neck, especially when they are done on a hard floor, like the gym floors we all learned to do them on. Second is that they only work those central abs, making those love handles a little harder to fix.
Crunches are another exercise that still works great on those abs! They are very similar to sit-ups, but they lift only the neck and shoulders, rather than the whole back, off the floor. This eliminates the spine making an impact with a hard floor. But like sit-ups, crunches only work the central abs.
A different version of crunches, where you lift your neck and shoulders while turning your body to one side, will help tone the oblique muscles, located on the side of your body below your ribcage. You will need to do equal sets in each direction to get the best benefit, and you face the same drawbacks as the regular crunches.
By far the most effective method I have found for working stomach and abs is Pilates. There are dozens of instructional Pilates videos on the market. You will have to find the one that you find the most helpful and entertaining. Also look for one that has a variety of workouts, or purchase several, to work out the entire body over time instead of focusing just on one area.
The benefit of Pilates as stomach muscles is that it works fast. It does cause some soreness when you first start because stomach muscles are being used in ways that they are not used to. Pilates focuses on using what they call the Pilates C. You to sit on your behind for the stomach exercises.
Usually, I place a small workout ball (about 12” in diameter) in the small of my back to provide support. With my knees bent and arms out in front of me, I slowly allow my body to sink into a C shape, while I lean back, rolling my spine. Then as slowly as I went down, I straighten my spine and sit back straight. This is great for the same muscles as the sit-ups and crunches, and no strain or impact on my spine.
To work the oblique muscles and tone that love handles, I do the same Pilates C, but I turn my arms and shoulder to one side about 45 degrees. I then sink in the C shape of my spine and come back up, just like the regular Pilates C. Again, you must do sets of eight or ten, and do them equally on both sides and in the center. That will provide you with a well-rounded strength training of the core stomach muscles. Plus you will be thrilled with how you look.
Another set of stomach exercises I have done are on an exercise ball. Sitting on the ball, which is about up to my knees in diameter, I place my feet against a wall on the floor to keep them from sliding. Placing my arms across my chest, I do sit-ups while sitting on the ball. These provide the same benefits as regular sit-ups, without impact, and the ball is much softer than the floor on the backside! Also, maintaining balance on the ball requires other core muscles to engage, providing a more thorough workout.
Whatever stomach exercises you do, be sure to do eight to ten repetitions in each set. Do two to three sets at a time. It will be hard, but push through, and you will be thrilled with the results.
Also remember that these are toning and strengthening exercises, which are very important, but they are much more effective when coupled with a cardiovascular exercise time of 20 minutes or more. When you come off your cardio workout, be sure to allow your body a short time to catch up to you, but don’t cool off too much. Warmer muscles stretch and tone much more easily than cold ones.
Total body health is important. Stomach exercises are a key element to total body health. Try out several different stomach exercises and see which ones work best for you. Talk to your doctor to make sure your body is healthy enough to exercise. If you have any questions about doing any of these stomach exercises properly, contact a trainer at your gym and ask for pointers to be sure you are getting the most bang for your buck from your stomach exercises.
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The content on this site is presented only for informational purposes and does not replace medical advice from a practicing physician.