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Many women underestimate the importance of their abdominal muscles. Strong, toned and defined abs do much more than just improve your appearance and help you fit into your skinny jeans. Your abs are part of a group of muscles known as core muscles, which are your body’s critical supporting tissues. They help you even when you don’t realise it, such as properly supporting your spine, improving upper body strength and helping to minimise the risk of injury. If you want stronger abs, here are a few exercises that will help you get them.

Leg Lifts

You might think that lifting your legs has nothing to do with your abs, but you’d be mistaken. As you lift, your abs work to stabilise your legs, hips and butt, thereby taking on the bulk of the workout’s intensity. Best of all, this simple and effective exercise can be done in the comfort of your own home.

Find a spot on the floor that is large enough to allow free movement. Lie down flat on your back with your legs extended and your arms resting above you. Next, slowly lift your legs and arms until they’re at a 90 degree angle to your body, ideally making an attempt to touch your toes. Hold the position for a few seconds before slowly lowering your arms and legs. Repeat each step until it becomes too difficult to continue.

You can also put your own spin on this exercise. For example, it works very well with a stability ball. Assume the same position, but grasp the ball between your knees and try not to drop it. This will force your legs further apart and give you something to hold onto, which will help to increase the resistance. If regular leg lifts have become too easy for you, this is an ideal next step.

Deadlifts

Deadlifts are a classic bodybuilding exercise meant to ramp up muscle growth. However, they’re useful for far more than that. Deadlifts challenge nearly every muscle in your body, but especially your core abdominal muscles. If you want to make them stronger in a hurry, this exercise is your best option.

Depending on your current fitness level, choose a weight that challenges you but that you’re also comfortable with. Set the weights on the floor and stand in front of them with your feet flat and shoulder-width apart. With smooth, controlled movements, squat down and take hold of the weights. Keeping your spine straight and your abs tensed, lift using your knees and not your back. Bring your body back to its full standing position and repeat the movement in reverse until the weights are back on the floor. This exercise should present a challenge, so if it’s too easy for you, choose a higher weight to get more results.

Hanging Crunches

For strengthening abdominal muscles, it all comes down to crunches. However, normal crunches, although helpful, stop being as effective once you reach a certain level of fitness. So you have to increase the challenge. Pull-ups are good ab exercises, but what if you haven’t worked up to those yet? Well, you can get the best of both worlds by doing hanging crunches.

Find a pull-up bar and grab onto it like you’re about to do a pull-up. Make sure that your hands are spaced evenly on the bar to prevent shoulder injuries. Next, put your legs together and carefully bring your knees up toward your abdomen. Bring them up as far as you can and hold the position for a few seconds. Slowly lower them back to the ground and repeat.

What exercises do you do for strong abs?