If you are looking to keep your midsection or abs tight and toned for the hot months this summer (or all year long, for that matter), here are three great moves to add to your workout routine, along with three moves you should consider ditching.
Do: Weighted Basic Crunch
If you really want to train the muscles of your abdominals, add some resistance to your ab workout. When you train your chest or legs, you undoubtedly use some form of resistance to help stimulate those muscles. The same principal applies to training your abs. Add a small amount of resistance and recruit additional muscle fibers, which will make your midsection stronger.
Step 1: Lie flat on your back on a mat.
Step 2: Bend your knees and slide your feet toward your body.
Step 3: Hold a medicine ball in your hands, just under your chin and on top of your chest.
Step 4: Raise your shoulders and neck off of the mat.
Step 5: Pause and repeat.
Don’t Do: Traditional Sit-ups
Remember the sit-ups you used to do in school, where someone would hold your feet and you’d curl your back off the floor and sit up as far as you could? Those old school sit-ups put a tremendous amount of strain on your neck and back. And, while your fellow student thought he was a big help by locking your feet to the floor, he was actually helping to stabilize your core—something you should be doing on your own when you work the abdominals.
Do: Pivot Planks
If you have mastered the plank and are ready for some additional midsection training, try adding pivot planks to your routine. This exercise will train your entire midsection and core, without relying on additional muscles.
Step 1: Get into a traditional plank position.
Step 2: While keeping your entire body as steady as possible, slowly rotate your right hip toward the floor.
Step 3: Pause and return to the starting position.
Step 4: Repeat the same motion with your left hip.
During the exercise, note whether or not you have the same range of motion on both sides.
Don’t Do: Bicycle Crunches
One of the go-to exercises for beginners and novices is the bicycle crunch. While this exercise can be done effectively, it’s usually done incorrectly, with most exercisers using momentum and the hip flexors to perform this move. This leaves the abdominals and oblique muscles unchallenged.
Do: Medicine Ball Slams
Slamming down and picking up a medium- to heavy-weight medicine ball (using correct form, of course) challenges your entire set of abdominal muscles, as well as most other muscles in your body.
Step 1: Stand in an athletic stance while holding a medicine ball out in front of your body.
Step 2: As fast as you can, raise your arms over your head.
Step 3: Without pausing, slam the ball to the floor as fast as you can.
Step 4: Pick up the ball and repeat.
Try this move slowly until you get the correct form. During the entire move, be sure to keep your elbows slightly bent and your arms out in front of you.
Don’t Do: Arm/Leg Sit-ups
Lying flat on the floor and raising both arms and both legs up to meet in the middle will certainly challenge your abdominals, but the possibility of injury and strain of ancillary muscles, such as your neck or lower back, are far too great during this exercise.
In addition to performing the correct exercises to keep your midsection toned this summer, a healthy diet consisting of a balance of protein, carbohydrates, fats and the correct amount of calories will keep you tight and toned all year long.