Crunches and situps may not get you flatter lower abs any more than constantly chewing gum will get your cheeks slimmer. In fact, these exercises can place too much strain on your neck. Instead, try some full-body exercises that work your entire abdominal region with no neck strain. You will burn more calories in less time and get a stronger body.
Standing Cable Chop
The cable chop works your core muscles, including your lower abs and pelvic floor region. By working the core among its left and right sides, you can determine if one side of your body moves better than the other, says physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance." Use a cable column machine with handles whose height you can adjust. Set the height of the handle to the highest level. Grab the handle with both hands and stand with your right foot in front of you. The right side of your body should be facing the handle. Exhale and pull the handle down and across your body diagonally to your left hip. Hold this position for one second and reverse the movement pattern to the starting position. Do not turn your torso or move your lower body when you move your arms. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps per side. To do the opposite chop pattern, just turn around so that you are standing with your left foot in front of you. Chop down and across your body to your right hip.
Standing Cable Lift
The movement pattern in the lift is just the opposite of the chop. You move a resistance up and across your body from a low position to a high position. It also works your abs and pelvic floor with a different movement pattern. Set the height of the handle to the lowest level and stand with your left foot in front of you. Grab the handle with both hands. The right side of your body should be facing the handle. Exhale and pull the handle up and across your body toward the upper left side of your head. Hold this position for one second and lower the handle by reversing the movement pattern. Do not rotate your torso or move your lower body. Perform three sets of eight to 10 reps per side.
The soccer throw uses all of your ab muscles to stabilize your torso throughout the exercise. It also uses your lower body to generate force to help you throw harder and with more control. Stand about 10 to 12 feet away from a sturdy wall that can withstand a medicine ball impact. Hold a 4- or 6-pound medicine ball over your head. Take two steps forward and throw the ball at the wall without hunching your back. Catch the ball after it bounces off the floor once and repeat the exercise as fast as you can. Perform three or four sets of 10 to 12 reps.
The reverse crunch places almost no strain in your neck since your head and shoulders are resting on the floor while your lower body moves. Lie on the ground on your back with your legs extended and together. Place your hands slight out to your sides with your palms facing up. Exhale and lift your knees toward your chest as much as you can. You may lift your tailbone off the ground a little. Inhale and return your legs to the starting position. Do not rock or use too much momentum when you move. Perform three sets of 10 to 12 reps.
Nick Ng has been writing fitness articles since 2003, focusing on injury prevention and exercise strategies. He has covered health for "MiaBella" magazine. Ng received his Bachelor of Arts in communications from San Diego State University in 2001 and has been a certified fitness coach with the National Academy of Sports Medicine since 2002.