Abdominal Crunches

Free your inner six-pack

"What exercise can I do that will get rid of this?" clients ask while pointing to love handles and a thick waistline. They hope some specific exercise or super machine will eat their accumulated fat. Alas, it's all about diet and cardio, cardio, cardio.

The reason for fat accumulation in the torso area is directly related to disproportionate calorie intake - how many we consume and how many we expend during a normal day's activity. If weight is increasing, more calories are being consumed than the body is able to burn. It's a simple equation.

Unfortunately, changing this balance is not so simple. Contrary to what the infomercials would have you believe about one machine giving you that beautifully sculpted six-pack, it requires a combination of proper diet and exercise.

Below are some effective exercises that, used in conjunction with a lean diet and cardio exercise, will give you abs you'll be proud to show off at the beach. Perform each exercise to failure (meaning as many as you can). Take a break. Perform three sets in all.

Abdominal Crunches

1. Start by lying on your back with feet shoulder-width apart, knees bent at a 45-degree angle.

2. With your hands lightly touching your head, lift your shoulders off the floor by contracting your abdominals. Do not pull the head forward when performing this movement and be sure to keep your feet placed on the floor throughout the entire crunch.

3. Lower yourself back to the starting position. Repeat the action. Keep abs tight.

Modification: Place a stability ball on top of your legs, resting on your shins.

Keep your lower body still as you crunch up toward your knees by contracting your upper abs.

Abdominal V-Ups

1. Lie on a bench with your upper back and shoulders raised, feet pointing straight off the end of the bench. Arms are held parallel to the floor for balance.

2. Crunch up with your upper body and bring your knees tight into your chest. Contract abs throughout the movement.

3. Extend legs straight out off the end of the bench and slowly lower your upper body back down to the starting position. Repeat.

Medicine Ball Twists

1. Sit on the floor; lift your feet off the floor.

2. Swing the medicine ball up and hold it. Your feet will remain off the floor for the duration of this exercise. Keep abs tight.

3. Turn the medicine ball toward one side and touch the floor with it. Once you touch one side, immediately turn the ball over to touch the other side of the floor. Keep face turned toward ball during movement.

Side Plank Ab Twist

1. Lie on one side, pushing up so that your body is supported by your right hand (or bent forearm), feet stacked.

2. Straighten your left arm and sweep it down, twisting your body and turning shoulders toward the floor (hips should not move).

3. Repeat on opposite side.

Cindy Quick Wilson is a certified trainer at Women's Fitness Company in Medford, which specializes in women's fitness and fitness nutrition.

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