Women don’t gain muscle as easily as men, meaning that a defined midsection may require some extra at-home work on your part to get that six-pack you’ve always wanted. Even if you are short on time, you can perform the most effective exercises to tone your abdominals to see results quickly. You don’t have to train every day -- just two to three days per week should be enough to build muscle without over-working your abdominals.
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The American Council on Exercise ranked the bicycle exercise as one of the most effective in toning the oblique -- side -- abdominal muscles as well as the front of the stomach. All you need at home is enough space to lie down and stretch your body out. Start by lacing your hands behind your head and extending your legs at a 45-degree angle. Pull your left knee in toward your chest and twist your right elbow toward your knee. Hold this position for one to two seconds, then reverse to bring the left elbow toward your right knee. Repeat 20 times. Take a break for 30 seconds, then repeat for one to two sets.
Another highly-rated maneuver, according to the American Council on Exercise, the reverse crunch tones the lower abdominal muscles -- a trouble spot for many women, especially those who have given birth. To perform, lie on your back with your feet in the air with your legs straight. You can place your arms at your sides with your palms on the floor or lace your fingers behind your head. Concentrate on contracting your lower abdominal muscles to lift your buttocks off the ground. Pretend you are reaching your feet toward the ceiling. Repeat the exercise 15 to 20 times. Rest for 30 seconds, then repeat for two additional sets.
Have a Ball
The stability ball pelvic tilt crunch helps work your lower abdominals and also is an all-over body toner. To increase the difficulty, you can hold a hand weight or other heavy household object in front of your chest. Start by sitting on a stability ball and walking your legs out until your mid-back rests on the ball. Lift your shoulders off the ball, extending your arms in front of you. As you lift your shoulders, curl your pelvis in to create a reverse “C” with your body. Lower to return to your starting position, and repeat the exercise 10 times. Rest and perform one to two additional sets.
The nose-to-knee crunch helps tone the oblique muscles, which can help you get rid of those dreaded love handles that can hang over your jeans. To start, put both hands on the ball and step your feet back until you are in a plank position. Slowly lift your right knee, pretending you are reaching toward your nose. Hold this position for five seconds, then lower the leg to the ground. Repeat on the opposite side, lifting your left knee toward your nose. Continue alternating until you have lifted each leg 10 times. Rest for 30 seconds, and repeat for two sets.