Getting stronger and slimmer abs may seem as hard as training for a triathlon, especially if you are new to exercise. Contrary to what many people believe, you don't need to do hundreds of situps and crunches. Doing a few simple exercises that emphasize your abdominal region can kick-start your workout routine.
Many tend to breathe with the chest rather than with the belly, which can constrict breathing and restrict ability to perform well when you exercise. Before you do your first ab exercise, practice belly breathing to engage your diaphragm and intercostal muscles in your ribs that move your ribcage when you breathe. Go on your hands and knees on the floor with your hands below your shoulders and your knees below your hip joints. Inhale slowly into your nose for four seconds, and your belly expands like a balloon. Hold your breath for four seconds, and slowly exhale through your nose for four seconds. Do this for about 10 to 15 deep breaths.
Isometric training is a good start for beginners to bring awareness to your abdominal region and breathing. It uses the belly breathing technique as you hold a position. These exercises, which do not require you to move, include planks, bridges and single-leg balance exercises. For example, as you hold the plank position on your toes and forearms on the floor, take five to 10 deep breaths as you maintain the position.
Chops and Lifts
Not all beginning ab exercises look like situps or leg lifts. Physical therapist Gray Cook, co-founder of Functional Movement Systems, suggests that you do chops and lifts to improve both posture and abdominal stability. Using a cable machine provides a steady resistance throughout your range of motion. To do the chop, set the weight between 15 to 25 pounds. Set the handle's height to the highest level and grab it with both hands. Kneel on the floor on both knees with your right shoulder facing the handle. Exhale as you pull the handle down and across your torso to your left hip without moving your body. Tighten your buttocks as you pull. Inhale as you return the handle to the starting position. To do the lift, set the handle's height to the lowest level and grab it with both hands. Assume the same kneeling position. Exhale as you pull the handle up and across your torso without moving your body. Inhale as you bring the handle down to the starting position. For each exercise, do two to three sets of eight to 12 reps.
There's no need for fancy gadgets to do situps. In fact, the equipment you often see on late-night infomercials provides no benefits to strengthening your abs, according to the American Council of Exercise. The amount of muscle stimulation in body-weight training versus using the abdominal gadgets is not significantly different. So if you want to work on your outer abs, stick with traditional situps and crunches. To do a situp, lie on your back on the floor with your feet on the floor about hip-distance apart. Raise your arms over your head so your head is between your biceps. Exhale and lift your shoulders off the floor, reaching your arms toward your knees. Inhale as you lower your shoulders and head to the floor, bringing your arms back to the starting position. Do two to three sets of 10 to 12 reps.