When it’s time to get serious about toning up that belly, finding the right exercise machine or grabbing some free weights can help you firm those muscles. However, you can also tighten your abs by leaving the weights in their racks and performing body-weight exercises instead. Neither method is clearly superior, so choose the path that suits your individual needs, or try both on for size and see what works for you.
Combine barbell jammers with torso rotations to hit all of your core muscles. Fasten a weight plate on one end of a barbell and secure the opposite end in a corner of the room. Grasp the weighted end of the barbell and hold it in front of your face with both hands. Stand erect with your feet shoulder-width apart and your toes angled slightly to the sides. Tighten your abs and exhale as you rotate your hands and torso as far to the right as possible, while keeping your feet in place. Take a breath, then exhale again and rotate as far as you can to the left to complete one repetition.
Perform a crunch variation by lying face-up on an exercise bench with your feet flat on the bench, your knees bent and your head hanging past the bench’s end. Hold a weight plate behind your head, then do crunches by raising your shoulders off the bench while keeping your legs and lower back still. Exhale on the way up and inhale as you return under control to the starting position.
Target your obliques with a seated cable twist. Grasp the handle of a medium-high pulley and sit on a bench with your right shoulder aimed at the pulley machine. Sit up straight with your feet on the floor and your arms extended to the right. Exhale as you rotate your upper body as far as possible to the left, keeping your arms straight. Inhale as you return slowly to the starting position. Perform the desired amount of reps, then repeat the exercise to the opposite side.
Perform a plank twist to focus on your oblique muscles. Position yourself face-down with your knees and lower thighs on top of a stability ball, your body straight and your arms extended straight down to the floor. Spread your hands shoulder-width apart or a bit wider and bend your knees so your shins are vertical. Rotate your hips to the right until the side of your left thigh is on top of the ball, while keeping your hands in place, then rotate as far as possible to the left to complete one repetition. Exhale each time you rotate your hips.
Target your rectus abdominis and oblique muscles by performing bicycle crunches. Lie face-up on the floor in the standard crunch position, then raise your feet and extend your legs so your knees are bent at approximately 45-degree angles. Exhale as you crunch upward and rotate your torso to the left, while simultaneously pulling your left knee toward your chest. Try to touch your right elbow to your left knee, then inhale and return to the starting position. Repeat the move to the opposite side to complete one rep.
Do a leg-hip raise by lying face-up on a flat bench and holding the bench’s sides, near your ears, for stability. Begin with your body straight from head to toe, then exhale as you bend your knees and hips and pull your knees as close to your upper chest as possible. Your lower back should rise off the bench. Inhale as you return to the starting position.
- For weighted exercises, do eight to 12 reps and use sufficient weight so your final repetition is challenging. Do as many reps of the body-weight exercises as you can.
- Consult a physician before attempting a new exercise routine.
- Perform a cardio warm-up and some dynamic ab stretches before you begin your abdominal workout.
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.