Cardiovascular exercise is great for burning fat around the abdominal area and weightlifting is good for overall toning, but to strengthen your abdominal muscles, you need to do specific, targeted exercises. However, it takes no more than 15 to 20 minutes a day to incorporate a routine to strengthen your abdominal muscles.
Practice proper posture. Even before implementing an abdominal routine, if you train yourself to hold in your abdominal muscles and sit straight (see Resources below), you already will be strengthening them. Aligning your posture is also an instant makeover.
Take deep breaths. Deep, abdominal-centered breathing has a strengthening effect on the abs. As you take deep breaths, remember to contract the abdominal muscles.
Incorporate ab-centered activities into your current workout. For example, if you are doing cross-training, warm up for your circuit by doing some simple crunches. If you are doing yoga, focus on stretches that involve leg raises, balancing which comes from the abdominal center, lifting the head and shoulders off the mat and deep breathing. Involve your abs in kickboxing, dance and aerobics by using more high kicks.
Target specific abdominal muscles with crunches. For lower abs, you can balance on your back on an exercise ball with with your feet on the ground. Lift your head, neck and rib cage toward your knees. For oblique abs, try lying on a mat with your legs bent and feet on the floor. Raise your chin, neck and rib cage toward the opposite knee.
Refine and intensify your abdominal workout with Pilates. The popular 100s routine is an advanced technique that uses micromovements to deliver powerful ab muscles. Lie supine on a mat. Raise your legs about 75 degrees. Keeping your legs straight and touching, lift your head and top of your shoulders off the mat. Keep your lower back touching the mat. Raise your arms and hands off the mat and pump them up and down, inhaling for five pumps and exhaling for five pumps. Do this cycle for 100 counts.
- Do not let your neck and shoulders do the work of abdominal exercises.