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The road to rippled abs

Swiss balls, available at most leading sports good shops, keep the body in a natural position during exercise and actually provide far greater stability while allowing the muscles to stretch fully. Here are a few abs exercises that use Swiss balls.

Print Edition: April 6, 2008

Some of the best exercises are also the simplest. Walk into any modern gym and you’re likely to see machines that promise to help you do abdominal crunches, some of them adjustable for targeting either your lower, upper or middle abs. Yet, the most effective equipment for abs training is probably a mat (on which you lie down) and a Swiss ball (that you use to perform the exercises). Swiss balls, available at most leading sports good shops, keep the body in a natural position during exercise and actually provide far greater stability while allowing the muscles to stretch fully. Here are a few abs exercises that use Swiss balls.

The first of these is the oblique crunch, meant for strengthening and defining the oblique (or side) abdominal muscles. Sit on a Swiss ball and take a step forward, first with your left foot and then with your right foot. Continue till your back leans on the ball. Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and rotate your hips to the right so that your feet now face that direction but your torso is twisted. With your hands clasped behind your neck contract your muscles on the left side of your abs while you breathe out, curling your upper body towards your left hip (pic. 1). That’s one repetition. Do 10-12 and then switch sides.

Abs exercises with Swiss balls
Abs exercises with Swiss balls
The second exercise is the scissor leg reverse crunch. With your back on a mat on the floor, hold the ball in a scissor grip with your legs (pic. 2), one heel touching the ground while the other heel is on top of the ball. Rest your hands on the mat on the sides of your torso to provide support. Now, using your legs and contracting your abs, lift the ball as high as you can. Hold that position for a moment before returning to the initial position. That’s one repetition. Do 10-12 and then change the configuration of your legs—interchange the left and right heels— and repeat the reverse crunches. The scissor leg reverse crunch is a tough exercise even though it may seem easy but once you master it the benefits are immense: it is a move that shapes and strengthens the entire lower abs area.

Both these exercises are good for your abs muscles but do remember that crunches alone don’t get rid of the flab that you may have covering your abs region. To burn the fat you need to complement your crunches and other abs exercises with regular cardiovascular exercise and a sensible diet. Cut down on fats and regulate your intake of alcohol; eat well-balanced meals. And build into your workout schedule a 30-minute intensive cardio training (run, cycle or use an elliptical cross-trainer) at least thrice a week. Stick to these and your six-pack will gratefully emerge.

Muscles Mani

Write to musclesmani@intoday.com and click here to read Treadmill blogs
Caveat: The physical exercises described in Treadmill are not recommendations.
Readers should exercise caution and consult a physician before attempting to follow any of these.

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