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If your goal is to have a flat stomach and a six-pack set of washboard abs, consider adding abdominal curls to your exercise routine. Ab curls focus on the rectus abdominis, and although they can help you achieve your goal, it takes more than performing an endless number of curls. It also takes eating a healthy diet and engaging in regular aerobic activity. Ab curls, sometimes referred to as crunches, can be done in more than one way. With the addition of other training aides or with slight changes in body positioning and movements, the intensity level of the basic crunch can be increased.
Begin the basic abdominal curl by lying on your back on an exercise mat, with your knees bent to about 45 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. Position your hands behind your head with your palms facing up and your elbows pointing out to the sides of your body. Point your chin slightly toward the ceiling, exhale, contract your abdominal muscles and slowly raise your upper torso off the mat. Stop when you feel your shoulder blades lift off the mat. Inhale and slowly return your body back to the mat. Avoid pulling your head with your hands. Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Stability Ball Ab Curl
To add more intensity to the basic ab curl, use a stability or exercise ball. Sit on the ball and as you walk your feet forward, lower your upper body until the middle of your back is directly over the center of the ball. With your knees bent to 90 degrees, lift your hips so your thighs are parallel to the floor. You can either place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing outward or cross your arms across your chest. Without bending your hips, point your chin toward the ceiling, slowly lift your shoulders and bring your ribcage toward your pelvis. Lower to the starting position and repeat. Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Weighted Ab Curl
The weighted ab curl is performed on a workout bench. Hold a weight plate securely with both hands. Lie on a workout bench with your head hanging over one end. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the bench at the other end. Position your hands with the weight behind your neck and point your elbows out to the sides. While keeping your lower back flat on the bench, contract your abs and slowly raise your shoulders from the bench. Stop when you feel your shoulder blades leave the bench, and then slowly lower back to the bench. If you don't have a weight plate, you can hold a dumbbell or medicine ball close to your chest and perform the exercise. Perform two sets of 10 reps.
Reverse Ab Curl
With the reverse ab curl, instead of curling your upper body toward your hips, you lift and bring your hips toward your upper body. Lie on your back on an exercise mat and extend your arms out to your sides for support. Bend your knees 90 degrees, lift your feet off the mat and position your knees directly over your hips. Your thighs should be perpendicular to the mat. This is the starting position. While maintaining the angle in your knees, tuck your chin, contract your abs and slowly bring your knees toward your head as far as you comfortably can. Pause, return to the starting position and repeat. Perform two sets of 10 reps.