Many of us strive to lead a fit and healthy lifestyle that consists of exercising and eating well on a daily basis. For many of us, we do this very well, we exercise regularly and we reward ourselves the right way by choosing nutritious, healthy foods. How many of us want to go that step further and achieve a toned, conditioned stomach? For some of us, we associate having a six pack, or toned stomach muscles as the pinnacle of fitness. How many of you will look at a guys or a girls physique and pay careful attention the abdominal area? If this is an area that you are wanting to improve on and develop then look no further. Here are my top 5 abdominal exercises that I will perform especially in the run up to a competition.
Before I tell you my top 5 exercises, I want to go into a little detail on what the abdominal and core muscles are and how they are worked. There are 5 muscles that make up the core and these are the Rectus Abdominus (six pack muscles), Transverse Abdominus (underneath the six pack muscles), the Obliques, (on the side of your stomach), Serratus Anterior (muscles just below the chest) and the Erector Spinae muscles which are found on your lower back and run along the spine.
My top 5 exercises will consist of working the Transverse Abdominus at all times. To work this at all times during the exercises, it's a simple case of pulling your belly button in, which will trigger the Transverse muscles and engage them. The Transverse Abdominus, (or the TVA for short) works as an inner belt around your stomach, keeping it tight and compact. The other muscles we will pay attention to is the Rectus Abdominus, Obliques and Erector Spinae muscles. It's important to pay attention to the rear muscles when working the front to maintain a balanced physique.
Let's have a look now at my top 5 exercises.. Each exercise will consist of 10-15 repetitions. 3-4 Sets
Exercise 1 ; Hanging Leg Raises
Hang from a bar with your toes just slightly off the floor. By keeping your legs straight, raise your legs to a 90 degree angle and lower them. This will focus mainly on the lower part of the Rectus Abdominus. You will also be working your TVA as you keep your belly button pulled in, but do not hold your breath! To increase the exercise, you can place a weight between your ankles and raise, making the exercise harder.
Exercise 2; Reverse Crunch
Lay the opposite way on a decline bench so that your legs are where your head would normally be if you were pressing. Place your hands behind your head and hold onto the bench. Slowly raise your legs so that you are at 90 degrees. Keep your legs here and push up with your hips. Again, you will be working your Rectus Abdominus and TVA. Great exercise!
Exercise 3; Standing cable Twist
Use one side of the cable machine. You can set the cable at head, shoulder or ankle height. Adopt a shoulder width stance and hold onto the cable using a handle. Take hold of the handle and twist the body from side to side. Try to keep the weight taught between hip to hip, you will get a nice burn in the obliques. Change the angle of the cable to work a slightly different area around your obliques and serratus anterior. Add additional weight to make the exercise harder and perform more explosive repetitions to further feel a burn.
Exercise 4; Swissball Jacknife
Grab a 55cm or 65cm swissball (depending on your height) and adopt a press up position using the ball. Your feet will be placed on the ball whilst your hands remain on the floor. Whilst in this position, keep your feet on the ball and bring your knees into your stomach. Do not arch your back when bringing the knees into your stomach. To make this exercise harder, try using just one leg to bring the ball towards the stomach. This exercise is great for working core stability, and it really focus on the TVA and the Rectus Abdominus.
Exercise 5; Rope Pulldown
Attach a rope that you would use for a tricep exercise and begin in a kneeling position. Whilst kneeling, hold onto the rope so that you are now in an upright kneeling position. Slowly pull the rope with your elbows pointing towards the floor. Keep your hips tucked under so that you place more emphasis on the Rectus Abdominus, (also keep the belly button tucked in to activate the TVA) and perform your reps.
So there you have it, 5 of my best abdominal exercises that will hopefully help you along the way to a tighter, leaner, stomach. Just to prove to you that I perform these exercises, I have attached a photo of myself that was taken today. I currently train my abs 5 days a week. The abs are in a highly oxygenated area as they are around major organs, therefore they can recover quite quickly. Keep up the great training, persevere and your toned stomach will come.