Many people who are considered fit and toned still carry extra weight in their abdominal areas, and this could be a general flabbiness or in forms that many people call love handles, spare tires or pooches. Many men and women strive to have flat stomachs and toned abdominal muscles, but it can be a difficult process to achieve the desired results. The main problem is that many people have strong abdominal muscles, but they are covered up by fat and excess weight. However, with a reduced-calorie diet and specific workouts designed to target the correct area, toning abs is possible. The best exercises for toning abs focus on three main areas: the upper abs, the lower abs and the obliques.
The upper abs are located above the naval and are used when lifting the head, neck and shoulders in a basic crunch. Most exercises for toning abs in this area are different versions of the sit-up. The basic sit-up begins by lying face-up on the ground, with the knees bent and the feet flat on the ground. The hands are placed behind the head or held close to the front of the body, and the exercise consists of sitting up by bringing the head as close to the knees as possible. Other variations include the knees-in-the-air sit-up, twisting sit-ups and the twisting-the-knees-in-the-air sit-up.
Lower abs are situated below the naval and are one of the most needed core muscle groups, because they typically support the back and spine. These also are some of the most difficult ab muscle groups to tone. Toning abs in this area usually incorporates exercises done by lifting and lowering the legs, and many Pilates workouts utilize them. One example of this type of exercise is when a man lies flat on his back, with his legs extended straight, and then slowly raises his legs off the ground in an upward motion until the soles of his feet are over his hips. He then slowly lowers his legs downward — but doesn’t let them touch the floor — and then repeats the upward motion.
Obliques are vertical muscles located on the sides of the waist and are the muscles that determine how slim the waistline appears. They often are the most easily toned ab muscles and can provide the quickest visible results. Toning abs in this area usually includes exercises done from lying on the side. An example is the oblique crunch, which begins in the lying-on-the-side position, with the knees bent, one hand on the waist and one hand behind the head. The person simply lifts his or her head and knees together in one motion, and then repeats the motion in a series of repetitions.