Put Your Best Abs Forward

Here’s a fast, do-anywhere routine for developing a marvelous midsection, whether you’re a beginner or know your way around the gym.
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Bringing out what nature intended calls for exercises that not only hit your abs from various angles, but also work other body parts. Well-defined abs come from reducing the body fat that’s covering them. In other words, you’ll have to bust out more than isolated, on-the-floor sit-ups to see the hoped-for results.

Related:Five Moves for Sexy Abs

To get you started, Oxygen developed an abs-blasting workout that hits all four major abs muscles in one routine. It covers your rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques and your deepest abs muscle, the transverse abdominis. And since all you need is a stability ball and a mat or a comfortable section of floor space, it’s perfect for at home or the gym.

Go for the beginner/intermediate choice (see chart below) when you start out, doing the routine three times a week on non-consecutive days. Set your sights on trying the advanced exercises after two or three weeks, but only if you feel comfortable doing so. Either way, you’ll want to start showing off your sexy abs in as little as two months.

Best Abs Routine

1. Floor Crunch

Floor Crunch

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (upper portion)

How To: Lie faceup on a mat with your head, shoulders and torso on the floor, and your heels and calves resting on top of a stability ball. Place your hands behind your head, elbows flaring out to the sides.

Contract your abdominals as you curl your torso upward, lifting your head and shoulders from the ground but keeping your lower back on the floor. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.

Pointer: Having your legs on a ball does a better job of activating your abs than placing them on a bench because a ball has to be controlled.

Stability Ball Crunch

Stability Ball Crunch

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (upper portion), internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis

How To: Sit on a ball with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Walk your feet away from the ball and lean backward until the ball is under your mid- to upper back with your shoulders and head just off the ball’s surface. Place your hands lightly behind your head, elbows facing out to the sides.Keeping your abdominals tight, slowly curl your torso upward, lifting just your upper back from the ball. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Pointer: Bring your feet close together to work your stabilizing muscles. Emphasize lifting your torso lightly instead of jerking upward.

2. Stability Ball Roll-Up

Stability Ball Roll-Up

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (lower portion), internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi

How To: Get into a straight-leg push-up position with your hands under your shoulders on the floor and your feet on a stability ball, soles facing the ceiling. Contract your back to draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Tighten your abs as you bend your legs to roll the ball toward your body, pointing your tailbone to the ceiling at the top of the move. Slowly straighten your legs to roll the ball away from you, back to the starting position. Repeat.

Pointer: This is an effective abs movement because it requires mobility and stability. Contract your abs throughout the move.

Stability Ball Pike

Stability Ball Pike

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (lower portion), internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi

How To: Get into a straight-leg push-up position with your hands on the floor under your shoulders and your feet on a stability ball, soles facing the ceiling. Retract your shoulder blades. Contract your abs up as you flex your hips, rolling the ball toward your body as you direct your tailbone toward the ceiling. Your body should form an inverted V with your toes up on the ball and your torso in a straight line. Slowly lower your hips to return to the start. Repeat.

Pointer: This pike requires both abdominal strength and stability to pull your abs in and your torso up against gravity. Your rectus abdominis works especially hard as it pulls on the hips. Don’t round your back as you roll the ball.

3. Russian Twist on Ball

Russian Twist on Ball

Muscles Emphasized: internal and external obliques

How To: Holding a medicine ball or plate in both hands, sit on a ball with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you so that your hands are at about shoulder height. Walk your feet forward and lean back until your upper back and shoulders rest on the ball. With your arms extended, rotate your torso to your left until your shoulder touches the stability ball. Return to the center, then rotate your torso to the right. Return to the center and continue, alternating sides.

Pointer: Be sure that you rotate from your abs, not your shoulder joints, as you twist from side to side. Try doing it empty-handed — gravity makes this exercise easier because it pulls the ball as you rotate.

Obliques Rotation

Obliques Rotation

Muscles Emphasized: internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis

How To: Sit on a ball with your feet on the floor positioned shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs and slowly walk your feet forward until your torso is about 45 degrees to the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your head without pulling it forward, elbows pointing out to the sides (don’t let them fold in front of your body). Slowly twist your torso to the left, then the right, contracting your abdominals throughout the move and maintaining a controlled speed. Repeat, alternating between the left and right sides.

Pointer: This move works your middle because the backward lean engages your transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis to hold your body in place while your obliques control the twisting motion.

4. Ball Plank

Ball Plank

Muscles Emphasized: transverse abdominis, erector spinae, pectoralis major, deltoids, scapular retractors

How To: Bend your knees and kneel on the floor in front of a ball, resting your forearms on top. Keep your abs tight and your back straight. Lift your knees from the floor, balancing between your forearms and toes. Hold, continuing to breathe normally throughout.

Pointer: Rolling shifts your center of gravity, changing the intensity of each rep. The move gets harder as you roll forward and less intense as you roll back. Don’t roll too far, though, as that can put pressure on your shoulder joints.

Stability Ball Roll-Out

roll-out

Muscles Emphasized: transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, triceps brachii

How To: Kneel in front of a ball, keeping your back straight. Bend your arms to 90 degrees and rest your forearms on the ball. Contract your abs and lean forward while extending your arms, keeping your torso straight as you roll the ball away. Stop when your arms are almost straight and your body is nearly aligned from your shoulders to your hips to your knees; you should be balancing on the ball with your forearms and elbows. Return to the start and repeat.

Pointer: If you’re in fine form, someone would be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your head to your heels. You can keep your spine neutral by looking at a spot in front of the ball.

Photography by Robert Reiff

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