Do you have a difficult time getting the flat abs your desire? After weeks of performing crunches, sit-ups, and abdominal twists do you find yourself frustrated with your stubborn pooch?
Did you know that a toned mid-section does not just make you sexier but also improves your overall health? Many research studies have found a link between belly fat and the development of heart disease, cancer, and type 2 diabetes. The truth is that a flat stomach is not easy to achieve. There are three things you need to get flat abs: regular aerobic exercise, a healthy diet, and effective lower abdominal exercises.
Your abdominal muscles are made up of four major muscles: rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, and transverse abdominis. The rectus abdominis muscle, also known as a six-pack, makes up the upper, middle, and lower abs, which gives you the ability to sit-up from a lying down position.
The transverse abdominis is a deep-seated muscle layer that supports your internal organs, while the external and internal oblique muscles give you the ability to bend from forward, backward, and side-to-side and rotate your torso.
Slow controlled movements, performed three times a week, will strengthen your abs more effectively than fast, jerky abdominal exercises performed every day. To fully engage your core and strengthen your abdomen, pull your abdominal muscles toward your spine as you perform the following exercises.
The Best Lower Abdominal Exercises
The plank exercise will not only strengthen your lower abdominal muscles but also help stabilize your core. To perform this exercise, lie down on your stomach and position your hands directly under your shoulders. Point your toes in, toward your head and slowly straighten your arms as you raise your body off the floor. Your arms should be straight but slightly bent and abs pulled in toward your spine. Hold the position by balancing your weight equally between your hands and toes. Be sure to keep your head up and neck soft during the hold. Maintain this position for 15-30 seconds or as long as you can. Work up to holding the position for 60 seconds as your strength improves.
To perform this exercise, begin by lying down on the floor with your knees bent to a 45-degree angle. Position your hands on the outside of your head for support. With a smooth, slow, pedaling motion, bring your right knee to your left elbow and left knee to your right elbow, for a total of 8-10 reps. Work up to 20 reps for optimal conditioning.
Lie down on your back with the length of your spine pressed firmly against the floor. Position your hands palms down under your hips. Pull your lower abdominal muscles in toward your spine as you lift your legs about a foot off the floor. Open your legs to a V shape and then criss cross your legs so that your right leg moves in front of your left leg and then left leg moves in front of your right leg. Hold your leg muscles tight as you move from a V to a criss cross position. Begin with 8-10 reps, increasing to 20 reps as your strength builds.
4. Hip lifts
For this exercise lie on your back with your spine pressed toward the floor. Place your hands palms down under your hips. Pull your abdominal muscles toward your spine as you lift your legs to a vertical position. Then raise your hips up off the floor, keeping your legs straight and perpendicular to your torso. With a smooth, fluid motion, lower your hips back to the floor. Perform 8-10 reps, working up to 20 reps as your strength improves.
5. Double leg lifts
Lie down on your back with your spine pressed toward the floor. Position your hands palms down under your hips. Tighten your lower abdominal muscles and leg muscles as you slowly lift your legs to a vertical position. Hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Then lower your legs down until they are just off the floor and hold this position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat this exercise 8-10 reps until you can work up to 20 reps. Add ankle weights to make the exercise more challenging.
6. Double leg circles
Lie down on your back with your hands positioned palms down under your hips. As you pull your lower abdominal muscles toward your spine, lift your legs a few inches off the floor. With straight legs and knees slightly bent, rotate your legs 8-10 times in a clockwise, circular motion. Rest for 30 seconds and then repeat the exercise using a counterclockwise, circular motion. As you get stronger, increase the amount of reps or add ankle weights to get a more challenging workout.
7. Alternating leg walks
Alternating leg walks can strengthen and tone your lower abdominal muscles. For this exercise, lie down on your back on a flat surface with your head and shoulders off the floor. Place your hands palms down under your hips. Bring your legs to a vertical position, perpendicular to your torso, with your feet flexed. Your legs should be straight and knees slightly bent. Activate your lower abdominal muscles by pulling your abdominal muscles in toward your spine. Gently support your head with the tips of your fingers, making sure your elbows are pointed away from your body. With tight abs, keep your left leg pointed up as you slowly lower your right leg until it is a few inches off the floor. Alternate this position, keeping your right leg pointed up and left leg lowered. Perform 10 reps on each side, working up to 20 reps as your abdominal muscles become stronger.
8. Double leg reverse crunches
You can perform this exercise with an exercise ball or ankle weights. Lie down on the floor with your arms at your side and hands positioned slightly under your hips. Lift your legs up to a vertical position and bend your legs so that your knees and ankles are parallel to the floor. With firm abs and bent knees, slowly lower your legs toward the floor so that the soles of your feet are just above the floor. Maintain this position for 3-5 seconds and then lift your knees up again and bring them in toward your chest. Perform this exercise 5-8 times, increasing up to 20 reps as your strength improves.
Important Points to Remember
- Always perform these exercises with a slow and steady motion. Quick, jerky movements are ineffective.
- Never arch your back when performing abdominal exercises. Arching your back can result in a back injury or weakened back muscles.
- Keep your abdominal muscles engaged during the exercises to get that flat stomach you desire.