Your abdominal muscles, or your abs, function as shock absorbers. They minimize injury to your spine when you land from a jump, climb or run down a flight of stairs. They also transfer force from your lower body to your upper body to help you lift heavier objects without injury, according to physical therapist Gray Cook, author of "Athletic Body in Balance." The best workouts to improve abdominal definition are the ones that incorporate your entire body in different movement patterns.
Stand in front of a sturdy platform such as a plyobox that is between 2 to 3 feet high. In one motion, jump on top of the box and swing your arms forward. Land lightly on top of the box, on the balls of your feet. Immediately jump off the box with your legs about hip-width apart so you land back where you began. Turn around quickly and jump on top of the box again. Perform 10 to 20 jumps for three sets.
Any squat variations will engage your abdominal muscles. They brace your spine to keep your torso from moving and they help your hips and legs produce a forceful, controlled movement. You can hold a barbell in front of your chest or one or two dumbbells over your shoulders to increase the intensity, but a body weight squat is also effective. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and squat back until your thighs are parallel with the ground and return to standing, keeping your back straight the entire time, to perform one squat. Perform 10 to 12 reps for three sets.
Medicine Ball Rotational Throw
Hold a 6-lb. medicine ball, stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart with your right side of your body facing a sturdy wall. Rotate to your left slightly to generate force and then quickly turn your torso, left hip and foot to the right. As you turn, throw the ball against the wall with your body, not just your arms. Catch the ball after it bounces off the wall and back at you. Quickly repeat the movement once you regain balance. Perform 10 to 12 throws for three sets per side. Use a lighter ball if you wish to improve speed or a heavier ball if you wish to improve strength, says Juan Carlos Santana, director of the Institute of Human Performance.
Pushups and Pullups
Traditional pushups and pullups are classic body weight exercises engage your abs to stabilize your joints, which is required to produce quality movement and strength according to Cook. Perform both exercises consecutively without rest between sets. This allows one muscle group to rest while the opposing group works. It also stimulates muscle growth and improves muscular endurance.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.