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Tighten Those Abs

By Charles Hopkins Published 04/21/2006 | Fitness
Everybody wants a tight, firm midsection. You can tone your abs and get rid of that pot belly but there is one important point you first need to understand.

You cannot spot reduce anywhere on your body. You can spot tone your muscles in the area you are targeting, but you cannot spot reduce.

Here's an example. Look at your belly in a relaxed mode. Now suck in your stomach muscles.

Your pot belly is pretty much gone. Did you suddenly lose weight in that area?

Of course not! The same thing happens when you begin to properly exercise your ab muscles. The muscles become stronger and pull in the unsightly girth. Your abs look tighter and you look better, but unless you have actually lost weight overall, you have not actually lost any fat in that area.

To lose fat in the abs, you must lose weight overall. To make your abs look slimmer and sexier, you must develop the ab muscles.

One of the best pieces of exercise equipment you can purchase is an exercise ball, also called a swiss ball. Every time you do exercises on this ball, your ab muscles come into play. The abs are working to keep the ball steady and to keep you from falling off.

You can easily do two of the following exercises on the ball and increase the effectiveness.

1. The Bicycle

This has been proven to be one of the most effective ab exercises you can do. You cannot do this one on the ball.

Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Lift your legs off the ground and raise your shoulders a couple inches off the floor.

Do not pull your neck with your hands. Push your lower back tight to the floor. Bring your left leg towards your chest while rotating your right elbow to touch your left knee.

Don't strain. As you return to the starting position, begin bringing your right knee in and rotate your left elbow to touch your right knee.

Work up to twenty repetitions each leg. Do them slowly.

2. Crunch

You are probably familiar with this one. Lay on your back with either your hands behind your head or on your chest. Legs are in a V-shape with your feet flat on the floor.

Once again push your lower back tight to the floor. Begin to raise your head and shoulders off the floor, tightening your ab muscles. Do not pull on your neck. You are only raising your shoulders a few inches off the ground.

At the top of the movement, hold for about one second, then return and repeat. Work to twenty repetitions. This is excellent on the exercise ball!

3. The Plank

Lie on your stomach. Feet are straight and close together. Push off the floor, raising up on your toes and your elbows. Keep your back straight and tighten your ab muscles. Hold for thirty seconds. Return and repeat for three to five repetitions.

Again, this exercise is excellent on the exercise ball.

Do these three exercises at least five days a week and the ab muscles will tighten up and you will look and feel great.