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Stability-ball crunches tone your abs faster than standard crunches.
Washboard abs, the six-pack -- these and other nicknames represent many exercisers' chief goal: a hard, flat abdomen. Achieving that desire may be challenging, depending on your starting point. But the goal is realistic if you're willing to eat smart and exercise regularly. You can't spot-reduce abdominal fat, but if you trim fat from your body, your abdominal bulge will eventually disappear. At the same time, you can target your abs with exercises to tone your stomach muscles.1.
Create a calorie deficit if you have excess fat in your abdomen. Eat modest portions of fruits, vegetables, poultry, fish, whole grains and low-fat dairy products. Drink plenty of water and make sure you burn more calories than you consume.2.
Improve your posture. Keep your torso upright when you're sitting. When you walk, your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should form a fairly straight line.
Warm up before doing abdominal exercises. Perform five to 10 minutes of light-to-moderate cardio activity, such as jogging.4.
Perform aerobic exercises to help burn excess calories to achieve a calorie deficit so you can lose fat across your body. Perform four or five 30-minute workouts per week, doing activities such as jogging, swimming or bike riding. Alternatively, replace one or two of those workouts with an interval session on the treadmill or stationary bike in which you alternate high-intensity sprinting with low-intensity recovery periods.5.
Perform basic crunches to strengthen your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles. Lie with your back and feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Touch the back of your head lightly with your fingertips. Exhale as you lift your shoulders and upper back while keeping your lower and middle back on the floor. Inhale as you return slowly to the starting position.6.
Position your lower back on a stability ball to do more challenging crunches. Stability-ball crunches are about 39 percent more intense than standard crunches, according to a 2001 American Council on Exercise (ACE) study.7.
Perform the bicycle maneuver, which was found to be the most effective abdominal exercise in the ACE study. Begin in the standard crunch position and then extend both legs so your feet are both 6 to 10 inches above the floor. As you lift your shoulders, flex your left knee and pull it toward your chest. At the same time, rotate your torso so you can touch your right elbow to your left knee, or at least come close. Return to the starting position and then repeat the exercise to the opposite side. Keep alternating as if you were riding a bicycle.8.
Do the captain's chair exercise, which is a type of leg raise that works your abs. Set your forearms on top of the chair's arms and let your legs hang naturally below you. Raise your knees toward your chest as far as possible, but at least until your thighs are parallel with the floor. Return under control to the starting position and repeat.9.
Perform your selected abdominal exercises for a total of five minutes per session.
- Stability ball
- Captain's chair
- If you're a novice exerciser, begin with the standard crunch and work your way up to stability-ball and bicycle crunches.