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Best Abdominal Exercises

Flat six-pack abs seems to be what everyone strives for when they hit the gym or get exercising. And why not? A strong core is the cornerstone of a healthy and strong body; toned abs look great; and a midsection without body fat is an excellent way to reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, and other diseases.

There are a lot of late-night TV ads out there touting the latest and greatest in ab-building technology. But the best ab exercises take hard work and proper execution to get rock-solid results.

It is important to find the exercise that is the most effective and comfortable for you to perform; increasing repetitions and resistance as time goes on can make even the most basic abdominal exercise explosive muscle workouts.

Crunches with an ab rocker machine: The ab rocker helps you perfect your abdominal crunch form. It takes pressure off your back and neck and helps ensure that your crunch movement is smooth and fluid. This exercise involves lying on the ground with your knees bent so that your feet are firmly flat on the ground.

Resting your head on the head support pad, you'll grasp each side of the ab rocker where the hand grips are. Once in position you'll curl your body up, bringing your elbows slowly up towards your knees. You won't need to touch your elbows to your knees -- the roller will guide your body.

Basic Crunches: The cornerstone of most workout programs, the basic crunch requires no equipment and a little knowledge of exercise form. The ab rocker helps stabilize and guide your crunch motions, and the basic crunch is the same movement without guidance from any equipment. If done properly, then there shouldn't be any neck or back discomfort.

Place your hands behind your head or on the sides of your head, but be careful to not pull up your head and neck with your hands; use your ab muscles and slowly bring your elbows a little less than halfway to your knees.

Bicycle Kicks: Once you've mastered basic crunches and are able to complete at least three sets of 15-20 crunches each, try bicycle kicks, which work out all of your abdominal muscles. Lying down in the standard crunch position, lift your legs in the air slightly and keep your knees bent as if you were riding a bicycle. As you begin to bring one elbow up, bring the opposite knee up as well.

You'll bring your elbow up as the opposite knee comes up to meet it. As you complete that motion, straighten out the knee and bring the other elbow up to meet the other knee. After some practice, you'll be pedaling in the air, alternating elbows and knees.
Captain's Chair: This abdominal exercise requires stabilizing and using all the abdominal muscles and even glutes. This "chair" can be found at most gyms and consists of a back support; attached to this are two arm supports with pads and handles. Some will have steps to help you get in position; others may not.

You'll put one arm in each support, grasp the handles loosely and push your back into the back padding. Keeping your legs together and hanging freely is the starting position of this exercise. You'll slowly lift your legs up, bending your knees as you bring your legs and knees up towards your chest. Slowly lower your legs back down to the starting position and repeat.

No matter which exercise you choose, remember to start out slowly and work your way up. As time goes on you'll be able to increase reps and even alternate or do multiple variations of these popular exercises in one session. With hard work and proper form, these exercises, along with fat-burning exercises, can get you a stronger core and sleek abdominal muscles.