Gut, stomach, tummy, belly. Whatever you call it, in medical-speak it's known as your abdomen
and the muscles in it are called your abdominals, or "abs" for short. back to top
What are abdominal muscles?
Abdominals are more than just the muscles that wrap around your middle. Strong abs provide the balance that keeps a ballerina on her toes. They protect a kickboxer's internal organs. Abs help yoginis do breathing exercises
. And they support your lower back when you lift weights or lug books around in your backpack. Your abs are actually three different muscles with three different jobs. That means doing a variety of exercises will pay off in strong, healthy abs. Combine abdominal strength training with cardiorespiratory exercise
(aerobics) to burn fat, and you'll soon have killer abs. back to top
What do I use my abdominal muscles for?
The rectus abdominis
muscles are found in the outermost part of your abdomen. They run down the front of your body from your rib cage to your pelvis. They help stabilize your body, support your spine, help you keep your balance and your back straight, and allow you to bend at the waist. You use them when you walk and run, and even when you breathe.
Your external and internal oblique
muscles are found on the sides of your stomach. They define your waist. Your obliques are your "twister" muscles. They allow you to twist and turn at the waist. You use them when you pivot, play basketball, or swing a golf club. back to top
How do I tone my abdominal muscles?
are the place to start, especially if you haven't been working out. Unless you already have very strong abs, you don't need to use weights. Lie down on the floor, and place your hands behind your head. Keep your focus on your abs and your gaze up toward the ceiling to avoid straining your neck. Also, because your abs are really three different muscles, doing a variety of exercises helps target them all. Here are some crunches
to try. Do these on an exercise mat, a thick towel, or a carpet.
Cross Leg Crunch (for the rectus abdominis muscle)
- Lie down on the floor, and place your hands behind your head.
- Cross your right leg over your left knee and lift your left leg off the floor. Your left thigh should be at a 90-degree angle to the floor.
- Curl up your upper body and twist it toward the left. Think about trying to touch your left shoulder to your right knee. Then lower your leg.
- Do this 20 times and then switch sides and repeat.
- Inhale when you curl up, and exhale when you curl back down.
- Concentrate on pulling in your lower belly to help you lift your upper body off the floor. Don't use your hands to lift your body.
- Try to hold the crunch for a few seconds and keep your shoulders and legs off the floor while doing this exercise.
Do a "Double Cross Leg Crunch" by bringing your left or right knee to your chest when you curl up your upper body instead of twisting. Do 20 times and then switch legs. back to top
Bicycle With a Twist (for your obliques)
Lie on the floor with your hands behind your head. Curl up, keeping your elbows parallel to the ceiling. If you're doing this exercise right, you won't be able to see your elbows. As you curl up, lift your left leg off the floor. At the same time, twist your body so your right elbow touches your left knee. Repeat on the other side. Do 20 times on each side.
- Exhale as you twist to the side, and inhale as you twist back toward the center.
- Try to hold the crunch for a few seconds and keep your shoulders off the floor during this exercise.
- Pull in your lower belly to lift your body up. Don't tug on your head and neck with your hands. back to top