Before even looking into which exercises are best for toning the abdominal muscles it is important to know that if you are looking to lose weight from your belly area this exercises will not help you. Losing the weight requires dieting or at least eating healthy and burning calories through aerobic exercise (running, walking, bicycling, swimming, etc.). These exercises are for strengthening and toning your abs. Strong abdominal muscles will keep your body healthy and protect your spine.
1. The very best exercise (rated number 1 by the American Counsel on Exercise or ACE for ab workout) for strengthening your abs is the bicycle exercise. It will also work out your obliques (your sides or love handles). To do this exercise you first lay flat on the floor with your hands behind your head. Your knees should be brought towards the chest and your shoulders lifted slightly off the floor. Be sure not to pull on your neck to accomplish this. Once set up you start the exercise by straightening your left leg and turning your upper body towards the right. Your left elbow should be brought towards the right knee by this motion. Then, you switch sides, bringing your left leg bag and straightening the right and turning towards the left. As you repeat this it makes a sort of pedaling rhythm that the exercise gets its name from. 12 to 16 reps are recommended to get a good work out of the abdominal muscles.
2. Another great exercise (rated number 4 by the ACE) that works the abdominal muscles as well as the obliques is called the vertical leg crunch. To get into position lie flat on your back with your hands at your sides and left your legs straight up. Cross your legs at the knees. Use your abs, not your neck, to left your shoulders off the floor. It is easiest, most effective and more likely to be done properly if you visualize bringing your belly button towards your spine, especially at the top of the movement. Be sure to keep your legs stationary. Lower your shoulders. Repeat this exercise 12 to 16 times.
3. The long arm crunch is very effective (rated number 6 by the ACE) in working your upper abdominal muscles. Lie down flat on your back on a mat or on the floor. Bend your knees as you would for ordinary crunches. Stretch your arms out straight behind your head, hands clasped. Keep your arms next to your ears. Use your abs to lift your shoulders off the floor. Keep your arms straight. Make sure not to use your neck muscles to try to lift your shoulders, only your abdominal muscles. You may place one hand behind your neck, keeping the other one straight, if you feel neck pain. This exercise is recommended to be repeated for 12 to 16 reps.
As a final note, always be sure to keep hydrated while exercising by drinking lots of water. Also, be certain to stretch before starting your workout to avoid injury from a pulled or strained muscle. These exercises won’t get you washboard abs in a week. But if you regularly use them to work your abdominal muscles combined with a healthy diet and some aerobic exercise you will see results.