Stomach muscle exercises are for more than just flattening the belly. The muscles in the stomach contribute to what trainers call "core strength," as these muscles help hold up the torso. If you are a backpacker, for example, strong stomach muscles help you bear that heavy load and take pressure off your back. Most people know how to do common sit-ups, but a full stomach exercise program includes exercises that target all the stomach's muscle groups.
Upper Stomach Muscles
This exercise is a variation on the standard crunch, popular among boxers and listed by "Men's Health" as one of "the six greatest ab exercises of all-time." Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent in the normal crunch position, but extend your arms straight behind your head. Hold a medicine ball and one dumbbell in your hands or a dumbbell in each hand. If you are in the field, a convenient rock will do. Raise your torso with your stomach muscles, keeping your arms straight. Do 12 to 15 repetitions. If you have ever had to hold the Bible or a dictionary at arm's length for as long as you can, you will realize why this exercise is so effective. To make it easier, use either smaller weights or hold the weight against your chest instead of behind your head.
Lower Stomach Muscles
To target the lower stomach muscles, lie flat on the floor with your legs raised straight, knees slightly bent and your feet over your pelvis. Extend your arms down to your side, palms on the ground. Use your lower stomach muscles to raise your hips off the ground. Do 10 to 15 repetitions. To add your obliques into this exercise, first raise your hips off the ground, then slowly twist them to the right for a few seconds. Return your hips to the central position and slowly twist them to the left. Then relax.
All-Around Stomach Exercise
Bicycle crunches are an entire stomach exercise program in their own right, working the stomach in one fluid group of motions. Charles Mooney, a 1976 Olympic silver boxing medalist, boxing trainer and gym owner, strongly recommends them, as does David White, owner and manager of Washington, D.C.'s Downtown Boxing Club. Lie flat on the floor with your knees bent and your hands locked behind your neck in the standard crunch position. Raise your left knee up to meet your right elbow, using only your stomach muscles. Do not use your arms to raise your torso, as your hands are behind your neck only to serve as a brace. Return your left foot to the floor and lower your right elbow, but before you completely relax, bring your right knee and left elbow together. Start with 50 repetitions and work up to 100.
Article Written By Edwin Thomas
Edwin Thomas has been writing since 1997. His work has appeared in various online publications, including The Black Table, Proboxing-Fans and others. A travel blogger, editor and writer, Thomas has traveled from Argentina to Vietnam in pursuit of stories. He holds a Master of Arts in international affairs from American University.