Strong abs can decrease back pain and improve posture and balance.
Exercising your core muscles is a vital part of a regular fitness routine. There are several health benefits that come with having a strong core. Plus, exercising your abs gives them definition, helping you achieve that much desired six-pack look. If ab work isn't currently a part of your routine, you need a progressive program that will build these muscles gradually as you increase the intensity of your exercises. From beginner to advanced ab workouts, there are a variety of exercises that will target your abdominals and help you build core strength at a comfortable pace.
Your abdominal and back muscles are the primary muscle groups that make up your core, and exercising them has many benefits. Strengthening the central muscles of your core can help improve function in your extremities, as these muscles supply power to your shoulders, arms and legs. Your core muscles also help balance and stabilize your body, reducing your risk for falls and keeping you steady. Strengthening your core can also improve your posture and even make daily activities easier. A workout targeting your abs should be done two to three days per week to build and maintain core strength.
Beginner Ab Work
If you're new to ab work, you don't want to jump right in with too many repetitions or complicated exercises that are beyond your fitness level. Doing this can lead to burnout or worse, injury. Instead, start your workout with a few basic exercises, doing just a few reps of each. For example, traditional bent-knee crunches or sit-ups will work your lower abs and are simple for nearly everyone to do. Stability ball crunches will also work your abs and provide more support for your lower back. Another beginner ab move that targets your side abdominal muscles, or obliques, is a side-straddle stretch, which is done from a seated position with your legs extended as wide as possible. Bend your elbows and raise your hands to shoulder height, then lean to one side, feeling the stretch in your obliques.
Intermediate Ab Work
As your fitness improves, you can begin to work your abs for longer periods of time, with more repetitions and more challenging exercises. Some intermediate ab exercises to try include front planks, which are done from a basic push-up position with your forearms resting on the floor. You can also do reverse crunches. These are performed by lifting your lower body off the floor, rather than your upper body as you would in a regular crunch.
Advanced Ab Work
Advanced ab exercises are for people who have been working out regularly and have a strong level of fitness. These moves are more intense and require above-average strength and endurance. Side planks, where just just one arm and one leg support your body weight, will significantly work your abs, while medicine ball wood chops will exercise your obliques. Hold the ball in front of you, then swing it from your shoulder to your opposite hip, repeating the movement for several reps before switching sides.
Cardio for Abs
Exercising your abs alone won't give you all the results you want. While ab workouts are a key part of a well-rounded fitness routine, you also need to include aerobics and other strength-training exercises. Aerobics, or cardiovascular exercise, will blast calories and help melt fat to help you maintain a healthy weight. Getting rid of any extra jiggle around your middle will also give more pronounced definition to your core, showcasing the results of your ab exercises. Other strength-building exercises are necessary as well, so include routines that work all your major muscle groups to build total-body strength.