A lean, tight abdomen not only makes you look hotter but also increases your balance, posture and functional strength. Training your abs is a main component of core stabilization training. Although ab exercises like crunches and sit-ups for your rectus abdominis (six-pack muscle) are a part of abdominal training, exercises that tighten your abs target the muscles of your transverse abdominis and obliques, which work to squeeze your stomach like a cumberbund.
The single-leg stretch, a Pilates exercise, resembles the bicycle maneuver or bicycle crunch exercise. Although you stretch the lower back and glutes in this exercise, the single-leg stretch is an effective exercise for the abs. Do the starting position lying on your back with your head and shoulders raised off the floor and both knees pulled into your chest. Your hands hold the tops of your shins below the knees and the shins parallel the floor. Hold only your right leg and extend your left leg straight at a 45-degree angle to the floor. Switch legs.
The Lying Stomach Vacuum
Another way to get a flat stomach is to simply target your abs and hold them in a deep abdominal contraction without doing anything else that could distract you from strengthening this muscle group. Do this version of the stomach vacuum exercise lying down, because any time you sit or stand up, you active the muscles of your core, and it is difficult to fully isolate the abs. Lie on your stomach with your legs straight behind you on the floor. Place your hands on your lower back with your elbows bent. Then, pull your abs in and squeeze as if trying to compress the contents of your stomach into as small an area as possible. Hold and then relax.
Standing on a Balance Board
A balance board, also known as a Bosu ball, helps balance training because it moves when you stand on it. A balance exercise such as standing on one foot on a sturdy floor will also work your stomach muscles. You may need to master this before attempting the balance board. However, the stomach muscles will work much harder to keep you from falling off the balance board than when merely standing upright on a floor. When standing on a balance board, position the board with the blue, rounded side up. Step onto the rounded side with two feet and stand up straight. Place your hands on your hips so that you do not use them to maintain your balance, but you may relax them at your sides if that feels better for you. Keep your abs squeezed and your spine straight. Once you feel secure standing on the balance board, step one foot into the center of the balance board and lift your other foot into the air. Repeat on the other leg.
About this Author
Sarka-Jonae Miller has been a freelance writer and editor since graduating cum laude from Syracuse University in 2003. She was a personal trainer for four years with certifications from AFAA and NASM. Miller also worked at 24 Hour Fitness, LA Fitness and as a mobile trainer. Her career in the fitness industry begin in 2000 as a martial arts, yoga and group exercise instructor.