Good Form: Back stretch helps tighten abs

Good Form

When it comes to training your abdominal muscles, it's good to introduce new moves into your routine so you continue to "surprise" your muscles. Otherwise there's a tendency for them to go on autopilot and you won't get the maximum benefit of your efforts.

Sit upright on a flat, padded surface or mat with a small inflatable ball or firm pillow behind your waist. Place your feet hip-width apart with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. To begin, place your left hand behind your head and your right hand behind your right thigh. On an exhalation, push your lower back against the ball and raise your right leg. Pause with your shin parallel to the ceiling.

Inhale as you roll back and extend your right leg. Remember to keep your abs contracted by pressing firmly against the ball or pillow. At first, just roll back halfway, and you don't need to fully straighten your leg. Pause for 2 seconds, then exhale and roll back up to the start position. As you get stronger, place both hands behind your head and roll back a little more. Do 12 to 16 repetitions, then switch sides and repeat.

Voight is the creator of a line of fitness DVDs, including "Full Body Stretch" and "Ballet BodySculpt."

karen@karenvoight.com

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