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The Best Ab Workouts: Finding What Works for You

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When people say they want to get “shredded” the immediate thought is a washboard set of abs so chiseled you can do your laundry on them. The fundamentals of training abs are much more than skin deep. Having a strong core stabilizes the spine and lessens the chance for injury. For a well-rounded ab workout, you need to target your abs from different angles. Here are a few tried and true best ab workouts. Experiment with them during your next workout and find out which one suits you best:

Ball Crunch

Take the ground out of this classic movement to make your stabilizer muscles work just a little bit harder. In this exercise you lay on a standard Swiss ball with just your shoulders and upper back in contact with the ball. Your feet should be planted on the floor, knees bent, so that your lower half is making a bridge to stabilize you. From there, you crunch up by bringing your shoulders up off the ball until your abs are contracted. Keep your head and neck neutral throughout the movement. The best way to do this is to pick a spot on the ceiling directly above you and pretend as if you are trying to point you nose towards it.

V-Ups/Jackknife Sit Up

This exercise is a combination effort that utilizes both the upper and lower abs at the same time. It will also serve to strengthen the lower back, which is another important part to incorporate when building a strong core. Begin by lying flat on the floor with your lower back pressed into the ground. Arms and legs should be extended opposite from each other. Keep your feet together, palms pointed up at the ceiling, and in one movement raise your legs and your upper body up off the floor to meet in the middle. The end position should make your body look like the letter V or a “jackknife” position as it is known in diving competitions. Squeeze your abs as you reach for your toes and then slowly lower back down to the starting position to begin again.

Bicycle Crunch

With this movement, you target three key areas of your abs at the same time: the upper abs, obliques, and lower abs. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Your hands should stabilize your head throughout this movement rather than pulling on the neck. Have your legs raised and bent at 90-degree angle. Alternate sides by bringing your right elbow toward your left knee, then bring your left elbow towards your right knee. This should be a slow, controlled movement rather than working on speed. Try and hold the crunch for a two-count on each side to force a slower, concentrated movement.

Russian Twist

The Russian Twist is an ab movement designed to target the obliques specifically. You can do these on the floor or on a bench. Traditionally, you lay on the floor with your feet supported either by a partner or under something that will limit movement. Your legs should be bent at the knees with your upper body elevated so that it creates an imaginary V-shape with your thighs (not to be confused with the V-Up movement from before) Your arms should be fully extended in front of you and you can either hold a weight for added difficulty or use just your body as you get used to the movement. Twist your torso to the right side until your arms are parallel with the floor while breathing out. Hold the contraction for a second and move back to the starting position while breathing out. Now move to the opposite side performing the same techniques you applied to the right side.

Advanced Moves

When you get some of the basic moves down, and you need more of a challenge, advanced moves such as a weighted decline crunch, ab-wheel rollout, or dragon flags that were made famous by legendary martial artist Bruce Lee will each give you the tone, definition, and strength in your abs and core that you are looking for. Also, consider an MMA or kickboxing class. As well as the benefit of a full body workout, these types of classes work your core throughout the duration as most of the striking movements require the engagement of your abs in order to produce the proper strength behind the strike.

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