Four Ab-Toning Exercises

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Chisel your abs so they command the judges' attention and carry your competitive physique reputation to a new level of respect.

May 12, 2008

Written by FLEX Staff

They might be a pretty little mosaic of muscles, but your abdominals could very well be more important to your bodybuilding success than any of your marquee body parts. Your abs are, after all, the center of your body; they tie everything together, hold it all upright, and give your body support and stability as you throw around the weights that make you a champion.

Unfortunately, because the abdominal muscles are not bulging, shiny showpieces, exercises that strengthen them receive about as much hard-core workout effort as a dancercize class. Treat them as a serious muscle group, though, and they will provide you with deep-hewn definition and six-pack separation, but for that to happen, you must perform the following abdominal exercises conscientiously and correctly. Here's how:

1.Hip flexors—Begin with your legs straight and your elbows on the arm rests of the hip flexor bench (found in nearly all gyms). Keep your back straight, and do not arch as you slowly squeeze your knees to your chest. Hold for a count of one; then, slowly return to starting position at the same pace.

2. Torso curls—Lie face-up on the abdominal board, hands on your lower abdomen, feet anchored and knees slightly bent. Slowly curl upward: Do not sit up but, rather, roll your spine forward, chin into chest, chest into pelvis, without lifting your lower back off the board. Exhale as you curl, contracting your ab muscles hard at the top of the movement.

3. Reverse torso curls—Lie face up on the abdominal board, arms extended overhead, grasping the handle with both hands. Keeping your upper back pressed against the board and your knees slightly bent, slowly raise your pelvis off the board by using abdominal contractions.

4. Intercostal crunches—Lie flat on your back, knees bent, with your pelvis (hips) pressed against the floor. Place your left hand on the intercostals of the right side of your body and your right hand behind your head at the base of your neck. Bring your right knee up as you curl your upper torso forward (keeping your lower back flat against the floor) and touch your left knee with your right elbow. Breathe out as you contract. With your left hand, feel your right intercostals working. Do as many repetitions as you can to failure; then, switch and do another set to failure for the other side.

To optimally fine-tune your midsection, do three sets to failure for each of these exercises, trying with each set to build a cramping burn in the abdominal area you are isolating. FLEX.

FLEX FORUMS: Discuss your ab workouts with fellow bodybuilders.

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