As you can see from my pics from varying times, I am no ab expert and I too definitely have room for improvement (cough...ummm...errrr...diet...cough). Still, I can share what I have found beneficial when it comes to abs and encourage you to comment with any other tips you have as well.I think so many of us focus all our time and energy on what happens in the gym. All we can think of is doing thousands of crunches or situps, but what we forget is that what happens outside the gym is just as or maybe even MORE important. Let me just say that first and foremost, if you want a "six pack", you will NOT get it without paying attention to your diet!!! You can eat like crap and exercise a ton and not be overweight, but you will not have the definition in your abs unless you are LEAN. It doesn't matter how strong your abs are or how many situps you can do if they are hidden under a layer of fat. I wish I had a magic solution for this, but there's not one. DIET is key if you want a "six pack", which is part of the reason I only have a four pack! LOL!Range of motion is also very important. In other words...crunches DON'T work. Neither do those silly machines at gyms where you hold on and basically do machine assisted crunches. Seriously think about it. Most of the people that you see doing jillions of crunches or on those machines...don't have abs that you are jealous of. I have found that when you do things with a full range of motion, it is always more effective. So if you want to do crunches on the floor or on a ball, don't. Do a full situp. Don't crank on your neck like they taught you in elementary school or grab your legs and pull up. Use your abs and sit up. Go from shoulders completely touching the floor to chest touching you knees. There's lots of variations. You can do them with your feet "anchored" which will introduce more hips but allows you to do them faster. You can do them unanchored with your feet in the normal position or vary it and put the soles of your feet together. That's what I call "butterfly situps". You can also use an ABMAT which will give a small amount of hyperextension.
There are also other more advanced movements. The two I like are situps on the GHD (Glute Ham Developer) and KTEs (Knees To Elbows). If you click on the names of the exercises in white, it will take you to a video that describes the movements in detail. These are advanced and should not be overdone in the beginning whether you are a seasoned athlete or a beginner...especially the GHD situps! The movements are done by 1000s of Crossfitters worldwide and are safe if done correctly and you work up in reps over time. You can do damage to the muscles if these are overdone to quickly. Again, full range of motion is key.
When doing KTEs, not only are you lifting the knees, but the hips should rise as well.
The last tip...probably the one that is always the most foreign to people is the importance of MIDLINE STABILIZATION. Coach Glassman explains it much better than I can, so please watch the video. So many times, people want to focus JUST on their stomach and forget that many other movements engage those muscles and can be even more effective in building strength and getting the definition we are all seeking. It's not common to think of Olympic lifts, or Powerlifting, or Overhead Squats when we think of abs but they ALL require midline stabilization and will build a very strong core and amazing abs. When asked about abs, Coach Glassman says this,
"People ask me, 'what do I do for abs? I tell them, stabilize the mid-line like a motherf***er, that's what you do."
There's many other exercises that can be discussed, but these are the exercises that I personally find to be the most effective. The most important thing to remember, is that everyone is unique. There are no two of us alike. Your abs will not look exactly like mine and mine will not look exactly like someone else's. We all have to work with what we were given. That does not mean that you can use excuses like "I've had kids." There are many women that have had multiple children and still have great abs. So what if you have stretch marks...you can still have great abs. Up close, I have them. I don't like them, but it doesn't stop me from showing off my hard work and I'm positive that no one has ever walked away from me on the beach and said, "Ewww! Did you see her old faded stretch marks!?!?!?"
Age is not an excuse either. Stop by the "Strong is the new skinny" Facebook page and you will see SEVERAL women (myself included) over 40 that have abs a 20 yr old would want! There are lots of pics that were put up today. No two abs were alike. There were varying ages, colors, sizes, shapes etc. The only thing that was similar was that they were all worked hard for and are all beautiful.
Don't make excuses or say I can't! BE STRONG, make a goal, work hard, and YOU can have great abs too!!!