If you were asked, “What’s the one thing you would want to improve on your body?” How would you answer?
This question has been asked before and not surprisingly, a large number of people say it would be their abs. The fitness landscape has become so saturated with routines and fitness crazes to help you improve your abs. There’s Pilates, Zumba, spinning classes, Insanity, 21 Day Fix, the list goes on and on. So with all of these choices, how do you know which one is right for you?
The answer may surprise you: You try them all until you find the one that is right for you. Like a person’s beliefs, fitness is unique to each person. This doesn’t mean that there is only one ab exercise that is most effective. Any effective routine involves a combination of proper diet and exercise.
Below are 5 of the hardest ab exercises you can do to strengthen your abs. Starting with the most difficult and working down to hard, but not requiring you to be superman, these exercises are not for the faint of heart. Proceed carefully and use proper safety measures to reduce the risk of injury while getting the best results.
#5 – The Aztec Push Up
The Aztec Push Up is a standard push up with a very tricky variation to it. Proceed as you would if doing a standard push up. When you have completed the push up, use your abdominal muscles and your lower body to push yourself upward to touch your toes. If done correctly, it looks as if you are doing a standard push up and then folding yourself in half, in mid air. Not the easiest exercise to master. If mastered, it is recommended that you repeat between 5-7 reps.
#4 – The Superman
The Superman, is true to its name. It is not your Grandfathers push up. Start lying flat with both arms outstretched above your head. Using your shoulders and your abdominal muscles, complete as if you were doing a standard push up. When first attempting this exercise, it will be habit to use your lower arms and upper arm strength to complete it. The trick is to recondition your body to use your ab muscles instead. When mastered, it’s recommended to repeat for up to 7-10 reps.
#3 – Side Crunch
The Side Crunch is a yoga stance. Kneeling on a mat, keep your back straightened and your arms to your side. Lean to one side [using your abdominal muscles] and put your palm flat to the mat. Place the other hand behind your head and point your elbow to the ceiling while lifting your bent leg level with your hip. Extend your leg and your arm, keeping them parallel to the other side. Your head should be looking toward the extended arm and using your ab muscles, push your rib cage until your entire body is level on each side. Repeat for up to 6-8 reps. Switch sides and repeat.
#2 – The Prone Plank
The Prone Plank is another variation of a push up. Keeping your palms flat on the floor and level with your shoulders, tighten your abdominal muscles, execute the push up and hold for up to 30 seconds. Make sure you keep your spine aligned and your body level (hence the name, the plank). You can also vary this exercise by using one arm and holding for as long as possible. Repeat for up to 10 reps increasing reps and hold time as your strength increases.
#1 – Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging Leg Raises are the considered the hardest exercise for your lower abdominal muscles. The explanation is in the name. Suspending yourself from a comfortable height. You can either use a suspension bar or something equally as stable. It is also recommended that you use wrist straps when doing this exercise. It is not, however, recommended that you attempt to use your shower rod for this exercise. While suspended ensure that you are not too far off of the ground, but also that you are only able to touch the ground on your tiptoes. Using your abdominal muscles pull your legs up to your chest and return to a straight position. Repeat this between 10-25 reps, increasing as you are more comfortable. Please note: if you are swinging when you are executing this particular exercise, you are doing it incorrectly.