You want a strong, defined abdomen to power you through workouts and to look good in a swimsuit. That's where the toe-touching exercise comes in. It works the middle and upper region of your ab muscles. Although it alone won't give you a six-pack, it does work the muscle responsible for that cut look.
Use the exercise as part of a comprehensive core-building workout, which contributes to better sports performance, daily function and defined abs.
What is a Proper Toe Touch?
The toe touch looks simple enough, and it is. But, attention to form is critical to keep your back healthy and to make the move as effective as possible. Engage your abs as you crunch up and down with control to get the most out of the move.
Lie on your back on a fitness mat. Place your arms alongside your torso, hands in the mat. Lift both legs so the soles of your feet face the ceiling and the thighs extended right over your hips.
Roll your head, neck and shoulders off the mat as you reach your hands toward your toes. Pull your abdominals into your spine as your lift up and maintain a strong neck -- neither curling it to your chest or letting it fall back. Hold the position, with your shoulder blades lifted off the floor, for two to four counts.
Slowly release your upper body and arms to complete one repetition.
Keep your legs directly over your hips -- vertical to the floor -- at all times to keep the activation in your abs and out of your lower back. Avoid bending your knees.
Increase the Intensity
To build more muscle in the abs and kick the move up a notch in terms of intensity add a dumbbell or kettlebell. Hold the weight with both hands and extend your arms so that the weight is directly over you chest. Crunch up and down with the weight in this position to really feel your abs working.
Other Core Exercises to Include in a Workout
The toe touching ab exercise primarily trains your rectus abdominis -- the muscle that makes up your six-pack. Your core, however, includes your side obliques, transverse abdominis, back stabilizers and pelvic floor. You can't leave these out of ab workouts or you'll risk an imbalance that could cause dysfunction or injury.
Along with toe touches, include at least one exercise from each category below to create a balanced midsection that's less vulnerable to injury and better able to perform. Do between 10 and 12 repetitions of each move for at least one set, three to five times per week along with the toe touching exercise.
Back Stabilizer Exercises
Cobra: Lie on your belly and place your hands alongside your shoulders, elbows pointed to the ceiling. Lift your face and chest up off the floor. Hold for a count or two for one repetition.
Bird Dog: Get into all-fours on your hands and knees. Brace your abdominal muscles and reach your right arm out past your ear and your left leg behind you, parallel to the floor. Repeat with the other side for one rep.
Bicycle Crunch: Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Draw your knees up so that your shins are parallel to the floor. Lift your right shoulder blade toward your left elbow as you extend your right leg and then switch in a pedaling-style motion.
Side Plank: Get into the top of a push-up position with your hands under your shoulders. Turn to one side to stack your hips, shoulders and feet. Hold for 20 to 60 seconds on each side -- no need to do multiple repetitions.
Pelvic Floor and Transverse Abdominis
Plank: From the top of a push-up position, lower to your forearms. Keep your torso rigid as you hold, balanced on your forearms and toes, for 20 to 60 seconds; again, no need to do multiple repetitions of this move.
Stomach Vacuum: From your hands and knees, suck your stomach in tightly to your spine. This action creates an intense suctioning sensation and fatigue your midsection. Start off with 5- to 10-second holds and work your way up to 30 seconds or longer.