Captain s Chair

Ranking right up there with the Bicycle Maneuver for ab-tightening power is the Captain's Chair, which takes its name from a type of chair having a low back with spindles that curve forward. All you need is a sturdy, armless chair to do this move.

Positioning

Sit up straight on a weight bench and grip the sides of the bench to stabilize your upper body.

The Move

Slowly draw your knees up toward your chest. Hold for a moment, then lower slowly. Repeat the move for the recommended number of repetitions. Keep the motion of raising and lowering your legs very controlled. Concentrate on using the strength of your abdominal muscles to push through the exercise, or else you could place too much stress on your lower back.

Advanced Tip

Rather than grip the sides of the bench, hold your arms out to the sides at shoulder length to perform the exercise. Another way to make this exercise more challenging is to attach ankle weights to your ankles for additional resistance.

Vertical Leg Crunches

This is an alternate version of the basic Crunch—one that will help you achieve a flat, toned stomach, as long as you stick with a healthy diet and regular aerobic exercise.

Positioning

Lie on your back on an exercise mat or carpeted surface. Extend both legs straight up in the air so that they are perpendicular to the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your neck. Keep your core tight and engaged.

The Move

Slowly raise your head, shoulders, and upper back off the floor—no more than 3 to 5 inches. To protect your neck, be careful to not use your arms to pull your neck up. Hold for a moment, then return to the starting position. Repeat for the suggested number of repetitions.

Control your breathing; breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.

Advanced Tip

An advanced version of this exercise uses a medicine ball. Lie face-up with your knees bent. Hold a medicine ball in both hands outstretched above your chest. Pull your abs up and in without jutting out your rib cage, keeping a neutral spine. Lift your head, neck, and shoulder blades off the floor, using the strength of your ab muscles. Hold for a moment at the top of the exercise. Then reverse the path, curling back down toward the floor.

Fire Up Your Core

Fire Up Your Core

If you weaken the center of any freestanding structure it becomes unstable. Eventually, everyday wear-and-tear takes its toll, causing the structure to buckle under pressure. This is exactly what happens when the core muscles are weak – it compromises your body’s ability to support the frame properly. In recent years, there has been a lot of buzz about the importance of a strong core – and there is a valid reason for this. The core is where all of the powerful movements in the body originate – so it can essentially be thought of as your “center of power.”

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