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Stick It to Your Abs

Spice up your typical ab routine with this unique variation of the crunch.

You always put abs at the end of your workout, yet you're surprised when, by that time, it's difficult to find a free decline bench or Swiss ball to do your crunches. Now you're left with that open spot on the floor (you guessed it-right behind that water buffalo on the treadmill). But don't take it as an invitation to knock out a sloppy set of 20 and go home-you can still stick it to your abs with this unique move.

HERE'S WHAT YOU DO

Grab a light barbell, pipe, or broomstick and lie on your back on the floor. Raise your thighs in the air, perpendicular to the ground, and bend your knees 90 degrees. Hold the bar directly above you with both hands, so that it's higher than your knees. Now tuck your chin to your chest and, keeping your arms straight, slowly try to pull your spine off the floor one vertebra at a time—the goal is to crunch up into a ball so that the bar passes over your feet. That's one rep.

Do one to two sets of six to eight reps, resting 30-60 seconds between sets. If you can't get the bar past your feet, your internal obliques are weak-crunch as far as you can for now and continue using this exercise until you can.

THE STICK CRUNCH

Most crunches done on the floor hurt your back more than they work your abs-often because people tilt their chins up in the air as they rise off the floor. But this version (call it the "stick crunch") forces you to keep your head in a neutral position as you activate your deepest abdominal muscles to pull you up. As a result, it's safer for your spine, and it's one of the most effective moves for correcting weaknesses in your abs-even if your abs are only an afterthought.

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