The Belly Crunch does exactly what it says — it crunches your abdominal muscles in a very big yoga-with-weights way. This exercise works your waistline as well as your deep abdominal muscles. The crossover action in this exercise helps to strengthen and tone your back and waistline even more. As long as you perform the movements slowly without throwing your body, you'll really feel your abdominal muscles working. Crunch that belly a few times and watch it start to flatten out as your waistline takes shape.
If you have a neck injury, don't attempt this exercise. It may place too much strain on your neck, a major contributor of support for your body in this exercise. (In Chapter 14, you find some great exercises and suggestions for strengthening your back and neck.)
Grab your hand weights and strap on your ankle weights for this exercise. When you're ready, follow these steps:
1. Lie on your back with your knees tucked into your chest and your bent elbows in the scarecrow position (see Figure 12-9a).
In the scarecrow position, you stretch your arms out wide at shoulder level and bend your elbows at 90-degree angles. Make sure an equal distance lies between your hands and head and your elbows and shoulders.
2. Exhaling to a count of four, lift your head, touch your left elbow to your right knee, and extend your left leg into the air (see Figure 12-9b).
Keep your abdominals engaged at all times, and press through your feet to feel stronger in your belly muscles.
If lifting your head is too much trouble or your neck gets too tired, keep your head on the floor. You can also do this exercise without ankle or hand weights.
3. Inhaling to a count of four, bring your left leg back into your chest, cross your right elbow to your left knee, and extend your right leg into the air.
Don't bring your head down as you do this.
4. Exhaling to a count of four, tuck both knees back into your chest and lie back into the starting position (see Figure 12-9a).
Draw your belly down and in as you lift, and twist the trunk of your body as you touch your elbows to your knees. As you twist, imagine that you're wringing out a dishrag. And remember to keep moving between legs. Although this is a slow and controlled exercise, your momentum will carry you along.
Do this exercise six to eight times with each leg and elbow combination, pause to rest, and then do another six to eight repetitions with each leg and elbow combo.
The Belly Crunch focuses on your abdominal muscles.
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