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Exercises for the Stomach

To tone your stomach muscles, you need to work your whole core, including your upper abdominal, lower abdominal and your oblique or waist muscles. Most people are familiar with a basic crunch exercise, but this primarily targets the upper section of the abdominal muscles. To work your entire abdominal area, you need do to other movements as well. You can do abdominal exercises on the floor, a Physioball or a bench, and with or without weights. The most important thing is to do these exercises correctly and with control, or you will end up feeling them in your neck or back. Try to do 8 to 12 repetitions of each exercise and vary your routine for the best benefits.

Step 1
Lie on the floor on your back with both knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. You can also lie on a Physioball with just your low back on the ball. Place your fingertips lightly behind your head. Tighten your abdominal muscles and press your low back into the floor or the ball. Lift straight up bringing your chin towards the ceiling. Only lift up high enough that you feel your stomach muscles contract. Coming up too high will just strain the neck. Then lower slowly down. If you have trouble keeping your back flat, place your knees and feet on a chair or over the ball. To make this exercise harder, hold weights against your chest.

Step 2
Practice oblique twists. Starting on the floor or on a ball again, lift the shoulders off the floor a small amount and twist so your right shoulder comes toward your left knee. To avoid straining the neck, keep your elbows back. Don't try to touch your elbow to your knee, but rather focus on bringing the shoulder to the knee. Come down slowly and repeat on the other side. Alternate back and forth. Use weights if needed.

Step 3
Perform reverse abdominal lifts. Lie on your back on the floor, lift both legs up and flex your feet. Bring your arms alongside your body with the palms facing down. Lift your feet straight up to the ceiling, raising your buttocks off the ground. Then lower your buttocks back down slowly and with control. As you come down, do not swing your legs or drop your feet. The feet should stay flexed the entire time.

Step 4
Prepare for the Pilates ball pass by lying on your back on the floor. Bring your knees into your chest. Place a Physioball or medicine ball between your ankles, and put your arms and hands on the floor overhead with the palms facing up. At the same time, drop your legs and the ball toward the floor, keeping the knees as straight as you can. Then lift your legs and arms back up. Take the ball in your hands and once again drop the arms and legs towards the floor. Keep passing the ball from your hands to your feet. Lower the arms and legs down only as far as you can while keeping the low back tight on the floor. This may not be very far at first, but if you keep exercising you will get stronger and be able to go further.

Step 5
Perform the Pilates spinal twist. Lie on your back on the floor and bring your knees into your chest. Bring your arms out to the side in a "T" position with the palms facing up. For added resistance you can rest weights in your hands. Keep your hands and arms on the floor and slowly lower both knees to one side. Only twist as far as you can while keeping the shoulders down. Tighten the abdominal muscles and bring the knees back to center. Then go slowly to the other side.