here are 20 tricks for tight, toned abs:
- Focus on the Burn
By focusing on the exercise at hand, you not only are less prone to injury so that you can listen to your body, but you also engage the mind-body connection which helps to recruit more muscle fibers, thereby improving your results
- Close Your Rib Cage
When you lower down from a sit-up, pay close attention and keep your rib cage closed. This helps to “crunch” your abs more, engage your transverse abdominals, and keep your back safely supported.
- Engage Your Pelvic Floor
By engaging your pelvic floor (act as though you’re trying to stop your urine midstream) before and during any abs exercise you perform, you better engage your transverse abdominals, which act as a girdle for your entire core. This helps give you a tighter midsection-quite literally-all the way around!
- Don’t Hold Your Breath
Your core muscles need oxygen to work at full capacity, so be sure that you keep breathing. As a general rule, you want to inhale on the easiest part of the move (on the way down from a crunch) and exhale when you have to exert the most force (on the way up on a crunch)
- Start Small
You shouldn’t tackle a complicated or advanced core move on your first try. Start small by working in a smaller range of motion, and then as your core strength improves and you master proper form, make the movement to larger and more difficult exercises.
- Work in All Dimensions
Include abs exercises that rotate, twist and turn your body like you do in real life. Functional fitness moves such as this Side Lunge Wood Chop or this Stability Ball Chop and Twist are both great exercises to build a truly strong core.
- Add a Weight
Abs need to be challenged to get stronger. So if regular sit-ups aren’t doing it any more (or if you have to do more than 20 to feel the burn), throw some weights into the mix and watch your results multiply.
- Always Warm Up Properly
It’s extremely important to start any workout with a proper warm up to prevent injury. Warm those muscles up with some light marching in place and gentle standing rotation of your midsection
- Walk the Plank
Instead of just holding the plank in a static position, engage even more of your ab strength by performing this challenging Plank Walk-Up.
- Picture a Grapefruit
Every time you’re doing abs exercises on the floor, imagine a grapefruit is lodged between your chin and your chest. For best results, don’t let your chin lower to your chest.
To really strengthen your core, fitness professionals recommend strengthening the muscles that tie in to your pillar like your glutes, i.e. squats.
- Train Your Back
True muscle strength is all about balance. For every core exercise you do that only targets your abs, you should do a specific lower-back exercise as well like this Swan Dive.
- Try Balance Work
Incorporate balance work into your routine. Whether it’s with a stability ball, a balance board, or simply just standing on one leg, exercises that test your balance cause you to fire your core deeply.
- Go Slow
To really feel the burn, try slowing down. By changing the speed of your abs exercises, you’ll work your abs in a more targeted way that boosts strength and results!
- Tweak Your Diet
If your diet isn’t on point, you’re not going to see that 6-pack. To show off those toned abs, eat a diet with plenty of lean protein, low-fat dairy, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
- Make Sure to Rest
Just like other muscles, your abs need rest. Don’t directly work your abs two days in a row. Take a recovery day in between. Rest helps give you muscles time to repair and get stronger!
- Change it Up
For best results, you should change up your entire workout-including abs!-every four to six weeks.
- Maintain Constant Tension
Flex your abs and keep them that way throughout your entire core workout. Whether you’re doing crunches, planks, or balance work, squeeze those abs as if you’re preparing for someone to punch you in the gut to get even more out of your usual moves.
- Work Your Upper Abs Last
Try starting your workout with lower-ab moves like this Double-Leg Lower Lift and this Bicycle Maneuver, which both work multiple areas of your abs. Then, if you have time, end your training session with upper-ab work.
- Try Yoga or Pilates
Many yoga poses and Pilates exercises are extremely good for building core strength. These mind-body exercises can also increase your flexibility and reduce stress.
read article on Yahoo! Shine by Jennipher Walters for SHAPE magazine: 20 Tricks to Get Tight, Toned Abs Faster