Ab Training

August 18, 2009

Q: What are good ab exercises?

We’ve divided the exercises into upper and lower ab exercises. Note that there aren’t two separate muscles that you can truly isolate, so all the exercises stress the whole abdominal wall. However there are “clusters” of muscle separated by connective tissue (these make up the “washboard” or the “six-pack”). You can focus on the upper clusters by moving just the torso and the lower clusters by moving the pelvis.


For the lower abs, in increasing order of difficulty:

lying leg raises
reverse crunches
vertical lying leg thrusts
hanging knee raises
hanging leg raises

For the upper abs:

1.ab crunches
2.1/4 crunches
3.cross-knee crunches

Lower Abs Exercises

Reverse Crunch

This exercise can be done on the ground or on an incline sit-up board. All you need is something behind your head to hold. If you use the incline board, use it with your feet lower than your head.

Lying on your back, hold a weight or a chair leg (if lying on the floor) or the foot bar (if using the sit-up board). Keep the knees slightly bent.

Pull your pelvis and legs up so that your knees are above your chest and then return to beginning position. This exercise is very similar to a hanging knee raise, but a little less intense.

Lying Leg Raises

Lie on your back with your hands, palms down under your buttocks. Raise your legs about 30cm (12″) off the floor and hold them there. Now trying to use just your lower abs, raise your legs by another 15cm (6″). Do this by tilting the pelvis instead of lifting the legs with the palms. Make sure your knees are slightly bent.

If you’re big or have long legs or both, you should probably avoid this exercise. For people with legs that are too heavy for their lower abs strength, this exercise pulls the lower back into an exaggerated arch which is bad (and painful). For reasons why it’s bad, see Question 5. If you have this problem you can either try bending your knees slightly and making sure you keep your
lower back fairly flat, or just try another exercise.

Upper Abs Exercises

Ab Crunches

Lying on your back, put your knees up in the air so that your thighs are at a right angle to your torso, with your knees bent. If you like you can rest your feet on something, like a chair. Put your hands either behind your head or gently touching the sides of your head.

Now, slowly raise your shoulders off the ground and try to touch your breastbone to your pelvis, breathing out as you go. If you succeed in touching your breastbone to your pelvis, see a doctor immediately.

Although the actual movement will be very small (your upper torso should move through less than 30 degrees) you should try to go as high as possible. Only your spine should bend, your hips should not move. If the hips move, you are exercising the psoas.

Do these fairly slowly to avoid using momentum to help. You can increase the difficulty of the exercise by extending your hands out behind your head instead of keeping them at the side. Make sure you don’t jerk your hands forward to help with the crunch, keep them still.

Cross-Knee Crunches

Like ab crunches, take the lying, bent-knee position, but this time crunch diagonally so that you try to touch each shoulder to the opposite hip alternately. At the top position, one shoulder and one hip should be off the ground.

About the Author:

Victoria Johnson is the nation’s premier Health & Fitness and Wealth & Spirit “activist.” Victoria is the owner and president of Victoria Johnson Intl., a personal training, consulting, marketing and management company. She is not only a fitness guru, she’s a born and bred entrepreneur. She believes everyone should be healthy and prosperous. She has produced and starred in over 24 award-winning exercise and dance fitness DVD’s and videos, produced and starred in her own television show entitled “Victoria’s Body Shoppe” and most recently authored her third book, Body Revival, Lose Weight, Feel Great and Pump Up Your Faith! 


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