Jun 1, 1997
Outside Magazine

"Your abs are the center of your explosiveness," says perennially top-ranked McPeak, which might explain exactly why she raps out as many as, oh, 1,500 various crunches a night — with no rest between different sets. For good measure, she supplements this cheery regimen with three grueling weight and gym-equipment workouts a week. Why the seeming overkill? To hit all of her abdominal muscles, from every angle. "In my sport, there's a lot of twisting and diving," McPeak says, "so you need strength on your sides, as well as the middle of your stomach." McPeak recommends the following exercises to strengthen your entire abdominal region. Her only caveat: Pay close attention to technique. "If you do 1,500 crunches but don't do them right," she asks, "what's the point?

Two-Count Crunch
Strengthens rectus abdominus. Lie on your back, feet on the floor shoulder-width apart. Cup your hands behind your head, point your elbows to the sides, and press the small of your back against the floor. Now, contract your stomach muscles and keep them tight throughout the exercise. On one, raise your head, neck, and shoulders — be sure not to help with your hands. On two, lift your shoulder blades entirely off the floor. Lower halfway on one and to the floor on two.

Side Crunch
Strengthens obliques. Start in a two-count crunch position, but with your knees swiveled to the right side and resting together on the floor. Raise your head, neck, and shoulders, coming up over the left oblique muscle — just under your ribs on the side — then lower slowly. You'll be lucky to lift six inches even at full strength. After one set, switch sides and repeat.

Weight Crunch
Strengthens rectus abdominus. Position yourself for a two-count crunch, but grasp a light weight plate in both hands and extend your arms above your chest. Now raise your head, neck, and shoulders off the floor as far as you can, pushing the weight toward the ceiling. Return to the floor. Start with no more than five pounds.

Ab-Strap Knee Lift
Strengthens lower rectus abdominus. Using a pull-up bar equipped with ab straps, position the straps under your armpits and hang with your legs straight. Without swinging, slowly lift your knees toward your chest as high as you can. Then, if possible — and this is pleasant — give your stomach muscles a quick flex before slowly lowering your legs to the starting position.

Photograph by David Roth

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