The abdominal exercises outlined below will give you the basics for each exercise, and some of the variations that can be effective for you.
The abdominals, like any other muscle will adapt to the work demanded of it. To keep improving, vary your routine, the approaches, the equipment. that will help keep your motivation high and your results positive.
Like any other exercise, proper form is essential to good results. It's not how hard your work that delivers results, but how your work hard. Although each exercise will have its own specific form and variations, here are some "universal" form basics:
- Make every repetition count. You are working your abs not to get done, but to get strong. Feel the muscle you are working, and squeeze it as you reach your maximum contraction.
- The abdominal muscles can and should be engaged for long periods of time. They should be worked with high repetitions.
- Exhale as you crunch, inhale as you release. Don't hold your breath.
- Keep your abs engaged at all times. Don't relax completely between repetitions.
- Use your arm position to vary the intensity of the exercise. The further away from your waist the more effort required. Arms crossed on your chest is less intense than hands behind your head, which is less intense than arms extended over you head. Never tug on your neck when doing a crunch. If you feel the need to do this, change your arm position or take a break.
- Protect your back. Don't arch your lower back, keep it in contact with the floor or mat. If your experience back pain when doing reverse crunches, release your back and stretch.
- When crunching, keep your chin away from your chest, as though you were holding an apple under it. Pick a spot on the ceiling a little forward of just over your head, and focus on that as you crunch.
- As with any exercise, when you cannot continue with proper form - STOP - rest a moment and then resume. This is better for you than struggling with bad form.