Toning abs always involves hard work - but it doesn't have to involve countless boring crunches! We explore some great exercises to help you achieve toned, visible abs.
We all know that it’s important to do regular exercise to stay fit and healthy. Ideally, this should include cardio – where the heart rate is raised for a sustained period – as well as muscle strengthening exercises such as working out with weights, or doing Pilates or yoga. It’s the latter category that can sometimes feel like really hard work, and especially across the abdominal muscles or ‘abs’, the spot where we all tend to have a few pounds lurking. Many of us spend significant amounts of the day sitting down, meaning the muscles around the midsection aren’t used much at all. When we do exercise, those muscles have to work even harder, and doing something like a crunch (which uses only the largest of the stomach muscles) can be really painful.
However, unfortunately, that makes it even more important to do ab exercises! Fat around the midsection is dangerous, increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A major recent US study has suggested that it’s actually more dangerous to have extra weight just around the middle, than having excess fat all over. Of course, toning abs won’t fix a weight problem on its own – but combined with a healthy diet and other exercises, they can be a really effective way to lose that muffin top quickly and permanently.
If you have health problems or are really new to exercise then there’s a range of ab exercises you can try that won’t involve too-tough crunches. These kinds of exercises strengthen your other stomach muscles, the obliques, and transversus, making stomach crunches a possibility later on. And, ab exercises are not only vital to helping shift extra weight, but can also help with issues like sports performance and back pain. You just have to make sure you do them right, with no jerking. Here’s a guide to the best ab exercises that don’t involve crunches.
A feature of most exercise classes nowadays, this is easy to do and requires no extra equipment. The plank stabilizes the body and uses more muscles than crunches. Simply lie on your front, and prop yourself up on your elbows and toes. Your back and legs should be up off the floor, and your back should be in a straight horizontal line. Hold for as long as you can – aim for a minute. Advanced ‘plankers’ can try for longer or with weights on the back; get guidance from a fitness advisor at your local gym to ensure you don’t damage your back!
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