A famous sports axiom says that successful teams are strong up the middle. The same is true for individuals. Strong abdominal muscles give you a better look while stabilizing your body during many athletic and everyday activities. The situp, and its sister exercise, the standard crunch, both offer a strong core workout. But if you’re looking for something different, try another body-weight exercise to strengthen your rectus abdominis muscle -- meaning your abs, or belly, in common English.
Lie flat on the floor with your fingers on the back of your head and your elbows pointing sideways. Keep your back pressed against the floor. Lift your legs so your knees are bent at right angles and your shins are parallel with the floor.
Exhale as you move your left knee toward your head while simultaneously lifting your shoulders off the floor and rotating so you can touch your right elbow to your left knee. Inhale as lower your head a bit and return your left leg to its original position.
Exhale again and repeat the exercise, but this time touch your left elbow to your right knee to complete one repetition. Maintain a slow pace and keep your lower back pressed to the floor throughout the exercise. Try to perform at least 15 repetitions, and build up to multiple sets of 15 to 50 reps.
Hanging Leg-Hip Raise
Grasp a high horizontal bar, or place your hands in the ab straps hanging from a horizontal bar. Let your body hang vertically with your legs extended and your feet off the floor.
Exhale as you bend your hips and knees to raise your knees to your upper chest. Don’t move your hips backward or swing from the bar.
Inhale as you return slowly to the starting position. Perform five sets of five reps each, or try to work up to that level.
Perform a less challenging version of the exercise by making the same movements while lying on an incline bench. Make the activity more challenging by securing a weight between your ankles or knees as you hang from the bar.
Lie face down on the floor, then balance yourself on your toes and forearms. Keep your upper arms perpendicular to the floor.
Position your body in a straight line from your head to your feet with your face pointed at the floor.
Breathe normally and try to hold the position for 30 to 60 seconds.
Perform a less challenging front plank by balancing on your forearms and knees. Make the exercise more difficult by raising one foot off the floor.
- Stop doing these exercises if you feel any lower back pain.
- Consider having a spotter if you perform hanging leg-hip raises.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.