While finding an activity that you enjoy and do on a regular basis, such as walking, running or biking is great, it’s also recommended to target the specific area of the belly to tone the muscles and give the area a better definition and shape. And here come several simple belly exercises that you can easily do at home.
The abdomen (which is less formally called belly, stomach, or tummy) is the part of the body between the chest and the pelvis. The abdominal muscles assist in the breathing process, provide flexibility and movement, protect the inner organs and are a key element for supporting the spine and they also provide postural support together with the back muscles.
In the front of the abdomen, there is a major muscle called the rectus abdominis, also known as the “abs” and “lower abdominals”, it is a paired muscle running vertically on each side of the anterior wall of the human abdomen.
The obliques are the muscles on the side of the upper body that assist in turning the body from side to side. This is the area of the body which is also called “love handles”. It is important to properly work your obliques as toning them can help create a nice looking waist and better movement.
When we do the basic sit-ups and crunches (see exercise 1), we only do up and down movement so we work on the “6 pack” area, but when we crunch and twist (exercise 2), we work the oblique muscles as the twisting movement is the one that work your obliques.
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1. Crunches / Sit ups
This exercise is beneficial for your upper abdomen. Lay on the floor and hold your hands by your ears rather than behind your head to prevent a neck strain. Bend your knees with your feet on the floor. Then lift your shoulders and upper back up and away from the floor with your face pointing toward the ceiling. Exhale as you come up as far as you can, hold for a second, then inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat 15-25 times.
2. Crunch and twist
This exercise works the obliques (also known as love handles). Start with the same position as the above exercise (crunches), but this time raise yourself up slowly then twist your body from the waist (not back and shoulders). Try to touch your left knee with your right elbow, untwist and go to starting position. The next time do the opposite side and try to touch your right knee with your left elbow. Repeat on each side 10-15 times.
3. Pike and Extend
Lie on the floor with your legs extended over your hips (see the left image). Then crunch up so your hands reach towards your feet. Then bring your arms back overhead while at the same time you lower your left leg towards the floor. Then crunch up again while your hands reach both your toes, but this time when you bring your arms back overhead, lower your right leg towards the floor. Repeat 20 times alternating sides.
4. Front Bridge exercise
This exercise is great for strengthening your core muscles and is also good for the back (read my other post for more great exercises to strengthen your back). Suck your belly button and keep your body as straight as possible without locking your knees. Continue to breathe and don’t hold your breath. Hold yourself in this position as long as you can, then rest. Repeat 2-3 times. Gradually extend the time of holding yourself in the position.
5. Hip lifts
Lie on the floor with your arms by your sides. Your palms facing down and your legs over your hips at 90 degrees. Feet are flexed. Then lift your hips off the floor using your core muscles while your legs are reaching towards the ceiling. Then return to the starting position. Repeat 15 times.
6. Crunch Chop And Crunch Chop Twist
Lie on the floor while your legs are over your hips at 90 degrees and your arms are overhead. Take a deep breath, and when you exhale, lift your head and shoulders off the floor, and as you crunch up, open your legs so your arms chop through your legs. Repeat this movement for 1 minute.
When you want to work your obliques, chop each hand through the opposite leg, for example, when you lift your head and shoulders off the floor, chop with right hand through your left leg and alternate between the sides.
7. Side Plank
Lie on your right side while your legs are extended and your feet and hips resting on the floor on top of each other. Your right elbow should be directly under your shoulder as per the illustration. Then contract your core muscles and lift your hips and knees off the floor. Hold for as long as you can and then return to the starting position. Then do the other side and repeat.
8. Leg Drop
Lie on the floor while your legs are over your hips at 90 degrees. slowly lower your legs as low as you can without touching the floor, but make sure not to lift your lower back. Then raise your legs to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.