Your abdominal muscles are important to your overall health. Not only do the abdominal muscles protect your spine, but also the stronger they are the better your lower and upper body function synergistically. Abdominal exercises don’t have to be complicated either. You can get a phenomenal abdominal workout by just sticking to the basics. Have fun with your abdominal exercises and imagine yourself showing off that slimmer waist in a yellow polka dot bikini instead of a one piece with a skirt.
The standard crunch may seem basic, but surprisingly many people perform the crunch incorrectly. It’s important to not go too fast with standard crunches in order to properly engage the abdominal muscles. The primary target muscles are the rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis and obliques. The secondary muscles targeted are the glutes, erector spinae, deltoids and rhomboids. Lie flat on your back with hands behind your head or arms crossed over your chest. Exhale, engage your ab muscles, pull your chin slightly toward your chest and curl your body upward, lifting the shoulders and upper back off the ground. Slowly lower yourself to the starting position. This is one rep. Complete two to three sets with eight to 12 reps per set.
The reverse crunch is an excellent and simple ab exercise where the primary muscles engaged are the abs and the transverse abs. The secondary muscles that are targeted are the obliques. Lie on your back on a mat and keep your knees bent, arms spread out to your sides with palms your palms facing down and your feet flat on the ground. Lift your feet slowly off the ground, raising the knees above your hips. The knees should stay bent in a 90-degree angle. Hold the position and make sure to breathe normally. Exhale and raise your hips of the mat, rolling the spine and bringing your knees toward your head. Your hands and arms should aid with maintaining the balance and continue to curl up until you cannot go any further. Hold the position for one to two seconds and gently release and unroll your spine slowly until your feet are on the ground. Perform two to three sets with six to eight reps per set.
The combination crunch combines a standard crunch and a reverse crunch in one movement. As you perform a basic crunch, curling upward and lifting the shoulders off the ground, you also bring your knees toward your chest. Lower the shoulders and the knees together until you are at your starting position. This is one rep. Perform two to three sets of eight to 12 reps per set.
Fitness Ball Crunch
For this abdominal exercise, you’ll need a fitness ball. The primary muscles engaged are the abs and obliques, and the secondary muscles engaged are the deltoids, glutes, rhomboids and erector spinae. To perform the fitness ball crunch, sit on the ball with your feet flat on the floor. Walk your feet forward and tuck your tailbone under. Lower yourself onto the ball as you are walking your feet away from the ball. You should lower yourself enough on the ball so that your shoulders, back and tailbone are all resting on the exercise ball. Your feet should stay parallel to the floor with your knees bent to a 90-degree angle. Place your hands behind your head, exhale, engage your ab muscles and curl up until your shoulders and upper back are off the ball. Slowly return to the start position. Do two to three sets of eight to 12 reps per set.
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.