To add some intensity to your regular crunches and really blast your abs, try this advanced ab exercise.
Lie on the floor in your regular Crunch position, knees bent, hands over ears (not locked behind head) or in tight to chest.
Now, crunch up approximately 10 inches, holding the peak contraction for a count of 4. In this fully contracted position, the key is to really squeeze your abs together hard. Imagine pushing your upper abs into your lower abs and vice-versa (like an accordion coming together).
From this point, you want to return to the floor very slowly. The trick here is to try to keep your abs tense and contracted during the eccentric or negative phase of the movement. And you want to return slowly; it should take a count of 3-4.
Repeat the motion trying to maintain as much continuous tension on the abs as possible. This movement is not about “how many” reps you can do . . . it’s all about how hard you can squeeze your abs and maintain tension.
I like to shoot for a grueling set of 12-20 reps and then finish off by immediately going into a set of 8-10 regular paced Crunches.
Hanging Leg Raises
Hanging Leg Raises are becoming one of the most popular abdominal exercises, and with good reason. This intense movement is a great way to target the entire abdominal region including the difficult to hit lower abs.
If you’re not already incorporating Hanging Leg Raises into your ab routine on a regular basis, you should give them a go. Here’s the basic technique.
You begin the movement hanging from a Lat Pull-up bar. Your grip should be about shoulder width apart, and your arms should remain fully extended throughout the movement. You want to bend your knees slightly and keep them bent throughout.
Now, using your ab muscles only, raise your legs up to a point where your feet are about level with your belly button (note: you do not want to swing your legs up with your hips-focus on your abs). As typical with abs, hold the peak contraction for a count of one or two and squeeze hard. Perform the negative portion of the movement slowly by lowering your legs resisting somewhat on the way down. Repeat for a tight set of 12-20 reps.
Isolated Pulley Crunch
Here’s a bit of a tricky one-arm variation on the basic Pulley Rope Crunch that’s a great way to finish off your ab work every now and then and keep things fresh.
You do the exercise pretty much the same way as basic Pulley Rope Crunches but here, of course, you use just one arm at a time. With the rope attached to the high pulley on the cable machine, grab one end of it with one hand. From here, you want to kneel down on a pad leaving enough room in front of you to perform your Crunches, about two feet or so.
Now keep your arm and hand locked in position a few inches above and to the side of your head. Pull down, bending forward at the waist. You want to pull all the way down to the floor.
Concentrate on only pulling down and forward with your abs. Don’t swing, and try to keep the movement fluid rather than jerky. Hold the peak contraction for a second or two and return to the starting position slowly.
Perform 12-16 reps, take a brief rest (30 seconds), and then repeat with the alternate arm. When performed properly, you’ll find this variation strongly stresses the intercostals and the serratus.