When it’s time to exercise your abdominal muscles, your first thought may be to stuff your feet under the couch and start cranking out situps. But you don’t have to get on the floor to work your abs. Performing abdominal exercises from different positions, and using different tools, can keep your workouts fresh and interesting. Some ab exercises also offer more intensity and greater effectiveness than standard situps, while others bring additional muscles into play for a better all-around workout.
Things You'll Need
- Exercise bench
- Stability ball
- Free weight
Perform crunches on a bench or a stability ball. Crunches come in many varieties, and almost any version you can do on the floor you can also perform on a flat bench or stability ball. To increase the intensity, do crunches on a decline bench with your head lower than your feet. Secure your feet at the top of the bench, then curl your head and upper torso up while working against gravity. You can also perform abdominal exercises such as situps and leg raises on a flat or decline bench. Perform two or three sets of 15 to 25 repetitions per set, depending on the exercise's intensity. Steer toward the lower end of the scale, for example, if you're doing decline crunches, or the higher end if you're working on a flat bench.
Grasp a pullup bar or another horizontal bar and perform leg raises. Hold the bar with an overhand, shoulder-width or slightly wider grip and hang straight down with your feet off the floor. Exhale as you bend your knees and hips and raise your knees as close as you can to your chest. Inhale as you lower yourself slowly to the starting position. Make the exercise more challenging by keeping your legs as straight as possible and lifting them horizontally, or beyond. You can also perform leg lifts while holding a weight between your feet. Do three sets of 15 reps per set, or work up to that level.
Perform seated or standing crunches with a machine. To do seated crunches, sit in the machine’s seat, keep your lower body still, then bend forward from the waist against the machine’s resistance. You may hold a pair of handles, or the machine may have a resistance pad that sits in front of your chest. Do standing crunches by attaching a harness to a high pulley machine and draping the harness over your chest. Exhale as you lean forward against the resistance, no matter which machine you choose. Perform three sets of about 15 repetitions per set, or work up to that level, using sufficient weight so your final reps are challenging. Perform more reps with less weight to build muscular endurance. Do fewer reps with heavier weights to increase your strength.
Use a captain’s chair to do leg raises. Hold the chair’s handles, set your forearms on the arm pads and press your back against the rear pad. Your feet should be off the floor with your legs extended straight down. Exhale as you lift your legs so your thighs are horizontal or a bit beyond and your shins are vertical. Inhale as you lower your legs slowly to the starting position. Do three sets of 15 reps per set, or work up to that level.