If you've just lost weight, you likely already know that you need to do plenty of cardio to shed fat and that getting rid of fat is the first step toward visible abdominal muscles. Weight-loss can lead to saggy skin though -- a change that could be permanent. Toning up your stomach muscles will help you look leaner and more fit and can draw attention away from sagging skin.
Toning the lower abs can be tough, and butterfly kicks -- sometimes called scissor kicks -- can quickly give you a challenging workout. Lie on the ground on your back with your legs straight, then lift your feet about 6 inches off of the ground using your abdominal muscles. Kick one leg up toward the ceiling, then lower it while kicking the other leg. Aim for five to 10 reps on each side, then try the horizontal version of the routine. Beginning lying down with your legs straight and feet off the ground, this time spread both legs apart using your abdominal muscles.
You don't have to stick to the standard crunch to lose stomach flab. The American Council on Exercise (ACE) conducted a study in 2001 to uncover the most effective ab exercises and learned that the most effective crunches include the vertical leg crunch. To do this version, lie on your back with your legs pointed straight up, then crunch up. ACE also emphasizes the effectiveness of reverse crunches. To do this variation, start in the same position as a traditional crunch, but rather than using your abs to lift your upper torso, use them to lift your hips and legs. Start with five to 10 reps of each exercise, then gradually build up to more.
If you're hoping to tone both your abs and waist, you can't go wrong with the bicycle maneuver -- ACE's top-rated exercise for toning the rectus abdominus. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and feet off of the ground. Then crunch upward, moving your left elbow and shoulder toward your right knee while pulling your right knee toward your elbow. Repeat on the other side, this time drawing your right elbow toward your left knee. Continue alternating sides moving your legs as if riding a bike, completing five to 10 reps on each side.
Planks challenge your abs and make it difficult to cheat, making them ideal ab exercises. Lie on your stomach, balancing on your toes and forearms and keeping your back straight. Tighten your abs and hold the position for at least 30 seconds. Then try the side version. Lie on your side, then push off of the ground, balancing on your elbow. Your torso will be elevated and your toes will remain on the ground. Hold for 30 seconds. Aim for five reps of each exercise.
- Shape: Abs Workout -- The Fastest Way to Lose Belly Fat
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- Best Ab Exercises; Patrick Barrett
- Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images