Top Five Exercises for Abs
Captain's Chair/Vertical Knee Raise
Mountain Climber's with Stability Ball
Ab Rollout with Dumbbell
Crunches won't do for you what these exercises will
Abdominal muscles have to be one of the most sought after areas to tone and improve, not to mention one of the most difficult. As we age, visceral and subcutaneous belly fat becomes harder to get rid of. Crunches and sit-ups seem to be the most popular form of exercise, some even performing hundreds a day to achieve the much-desired "six-pack". However, as everyone must know by now, spot reduction is impossible, and isolation exercises work the fewest muscles, burning the fewest calories. Spot training might work to an extent, but only in the sense that the muscles will be visible once the fat on top is gone. Therefore, it might be smarter to wait and do all those crunches once you have attained your ideal body weight. Perform the following exercises at your own risk and pace. You know your body better than anyone; recognize pain when you feel it and don't push yourself too hard in the beginning. Here are the best exercises for abs - no ab rollers, rockers, twisters or belts needed!
*Captain's Chair - You may have seen this contraption at the gym and wondered what it does. Well, the Captain's Chair must be the most underrated device for building the abdominal muscles. It's also referred to as a vertical knee raise. Standing, press your back to he backrest and rest your forearms on the armrests on either side. Grasp the handlebars and lift the knees smoothly to hip level, about 90 degrees. This works the lower and middle abdominals, obliques and the hip and adductors. A similar exercise that can be done at home is an abdominal hold on the edge of a sturdy chair. Place your hands at the end of the chair and lift your body weight up, holding for five to ten seconds.
*Kettleball or Dumbbell Swing - This exercise will literally work just about every muscle in your body. Start in a squat position with toes facing front. Lift the kettleball or dumbbells, keeping the back flat, from about knee height, from between the legs. Lift the weight to about shoulder height and go back down in squat position taking the weight back between the legs as you go. Though this is called a "swing" make sure you control your body by activating the core muscles and squeezing the gluts. Use resistance bands if you are not comfortable using weights. Just put the band under your feet to hold it, and bring the band upward with your hands to eye level and back down. Look straight forward and never curve the back - this will avoid injuries. This is also a good form of cardio. See a demonstration in the link below.
*Sun Circles - In this exercise, you are basically doing a plie squat with the added dumbbell torso circle. You can hold one five pound dumbbell, one hand on either side, or two light dumbbells, one in each hand, but pressed together. A plie is performed with the toes pointed outward, legs are positioned a little more than hip-width apart. Staying forward with a straight spine, bend the knees in a squat position being sure to keep knees behind the toes. Bring the dumbbell down around your pelvic area, and as you come up, move it around in a circle around the torso and just above the head. Repeat this ten times, then perform the circle in the opposite direction. This works the obliques, middle abs, legs and arms.
*Mountain Climber - These work the abs, inner thighs, gluts and shoulders. Place the hands on a bench or stability ball. Alternatively, you can do these with your hands on the floor, but being elevated sometimes helps prevent back pain or injury. Start in a peak push-up position. Bring knees towards elbows slowly. For advance exercisers, shuttle the feet at a moderate pace, bringing knees towards the elbows. For the obliques, bring the knees towards the opposite elbow at a slower pace.
*Ab Rollouts - Work the arms and abdominals all in one with this exercise. You can use dumbbells on a smooth surface like carpet, an exercise disc, barbell or wheel (with handlebars on either side). In peak push-up position on knees or hands, with a straight body, roll outward until the arms are fully extended, then pull yourself back to starting position. Perform this in eight to 15 reps, in three sets. You're entire body is activated for this exercise.
As you can see, all of these exercises are done in positions other than on the back as with crunches and sit-ups. For this reason, people who experience neck pain during sit-ups might find these exercises easier and less painful. All of these can be done at home. Invest in inexpensive equipment like dumbbells, resistance bands, exercise discs, kettleballs and DVDs.
Of course, having a DVD, trainer or other professional show you the proper way to do these is always best to prevent injuries and make sure you are getting the most out of your routine. Work at your own pace and fitness level, always.
See Men's Health Version of the Dumbbell Swing
- Dumb-bell swing :: Men\'s Health
Mens Health magazine: Follow our exercise descriptions, including guides on a number of sport stretches, sport warm ups including both warm up exercises, warm down exercises to optimise your performance.