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>> Lie faceup on the floor with your legs fully extended. Place your hands behind your head with your fingertips touching to support your head and your elbows out to the sides.
>> With just a slight bend in your knees, raise your feet about 6 inches off the floor, keeping your head neutral and your eyes forward. This is both the start and finish position of each rep.
>> Slowly curl your upper body off the floor one vertebra at a time. As you curl up, your shoulder blades should move farther off the floor as your raise your chest and shoulders toward the ceiling.
>> At the same time, bend your hips and knees to raise your knees toward the ceiling.
>> At the top of the move, the lower portion of your glutes should curl off the floor as your quads and torso come together to form a tight “V.” Exhale at this top position.
>> Hold the peak-contracted position momentarily while squeezing your abs, then return in the same deliberate manner, stopping short of your feet and hands touching the floor.
>> Imagine that your hips are a fulcrum, and a winch is slowly closing your knees and chest together one notch at a time. Slow down the movement for a true burn, and focus on squeezing your abs throughout the entire movement.
>> Keep your neck and head neutrally aligned (your chin should not touch your chest). Don’t pull on your head in an effort to go higher at the top.
>> Don’t rock back and forth, or swing your legs toward your chest. Focus on making your abs do the work, pulling your torso and knees together.
>> Keep tension on the abs by stopping short of allowing your hands and feet to touch the floor. You’ll also get a stronger burn in your midsection.
>> Hold your breath until you reach the top position, then exhale. This increases the intra-abdominal pressure, which in turn helps strengthen the abdominal wall.
>> For variety, try alternating the degree of knee bend, but don’t let your legs touch the floor.
>> To make the exercise more difficult and to concentrate on strength, extend your arms overhead and keep your legs straight, forming a “pike” position at the top.
THE EXERCISE LOWDOWN
When: Do the double-crunch leg raise after weighted abdominal movements toward the end of your workout.
With: Include it with dedicated exercises for the upper abs, lower abs and obliques.
How: Do 3-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
The abdominal muscles are constantly challenged in most sports. As the kinetic link that transfers force started by the feet throughout the entire body, the abs are particularly active in all rotational movements and trunk-flexion activities. Martial artists, boxers, wrestlers and gymnasts should pay special attention to the abdominal region and focus on executing midsection moves with precision. Once sufficient abdominal strength is achieved, baseball, tennis and football athletes should consider doing this exercise explosively against resistance (assuming momentum is controlled).