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Exercise Your Way to Awesome Abs(1)

Por Leslie Rodríguez, RD, LD, Specialist in Sports Nutrition and Physical Activity with MyDiet™ -

We all want movie star stomachs. You know what we’re talking about--washboard abs that obviously take years to tone and sculpt. But who has time to spend hours and hours in the gym?

Actually, you can get your dream abs in no time at all by eating healthy and doing just a few exercises that target that region.

A recent study by the American Council on Exercise concluded that the three best abdominal exercises include cycling, the captain’s chair and crunches on an exercise ball. The council reached this conclusion after studying various complicated exercise equipment like the Torso Track, the Ab Rocker and the Ab Roller with very mixed results. Most of the researchers determined that none of the devices were as effective as the other exercises. Some of the equipment even caused participants back problems.

Experts have claimed that you don’t need to spend money on machines and other equipment to effectively exercise your abdominal muscles. The study confirmed this. The three best exercises are cheap, and excluding the captain’s chair, can be done at home.

Captain’s chair

Usually, you can only find the captain’s chair in a gym. Stabilize your body by gripping the handholds and lightly pressing your lower back into the back pad. Start with your legs dangling. Then slowly lift your knees toward your torso. Then slowly and deliberately return them to the starting position.

Abdominal crunches

To do abdominal crunches with an exercise ball, sit on the ball with your feet on the floor. Allow it to slowly move backward. Now lean back on the ball until you get your thighs and torso parallel to the floor. Put your hands behind your head, and make sure your chin touches your chest. Lift your torso no more than 45 degrees, and tighten your abdomen. For more balance, separate your feet. If you want to exercise your side muscles (obliques) more, move your feet closer together. Breathe out when you contract your muscles and breathe in when you return to the starting position.

Correct technique

We all want a flat and strong abdomen, but you have to learn how to get the results you want without injuring yourself. If you decide to do abdominal crunches, follow these recommendations:

  • Lift your head using your abdominal muscles, not your neck muscles. If you use your neck muscles, you will strain your neck. Put your hands behind your head without locking your fingers. Lift your chin slightly leaving a fist’s space between your chin and your chest. Your head and neck should stay in this position throughout the exercise.
  • Control your head and neck when you move up and down.
  • Don’t move your elbows. Elbows are not involved in abdominal exercises. Once you position them pointing outward and slightly arched, leave them that way.
  • Don’t arch or sink your back. Keep it flat against the floor. Contract your abdominal muscles. Always leave a small space of about one or two fingers between the floor and your back in the lumbar (lower back) area.
  • After lifting your head, don’t forget to bend your body forward. Abdominal crunches not only consist of lifting your head, neck, and shoulder blades. You also bend your body forward as if doubling up in pain.
  • Don’t lift your head suddenly. Do the exercise slowly using your abdominal muscles.
  • Keep your knees bent at about 8 to 10 inches from your buttocks to avoid straining your back muscles.

Strengthening your abdominal muscles correctly helps you prevent injuries, maintain good posture, reduce pain in the lower-back area and improve your performance in other sporting activities. Performing them incorrectly, however, can do more harm than good.


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