Vince Gironda used to decry doing sit-ups of any type; flat, incline or decline. He was fond of making the statement, “Which athletes have the best developed abs? Gymnasts, of course! Did you ever hear of gymnasts doing sit-ups? No!” It was Gironda’s contention that their abs developed because those muscles were constantly under stress and tension while the gymnasts perform their sport. Try to do an “iron cross” on the Roman rings without tensing your abs.
Vince’s students ranged from professional bodybuilders, to ordinary fitness minded people, to A-list movie stars like Clint Eastwood, Robert Blake, William Smith, Clint Walker and a host of others.
Acolytes of a “no-sit-ups” method of abdominal exercises follow a type of routine that emphasizes applying tension to each muscle in your midsection by crunching, stressing, twisting and compressing these muscles. It does work very well and isn’t nearly as much work as the pro bodybuilder’s approach outlined earlier. It is performed daily though and does account for some pretty spectacular abs development!
The “Roman chair” referred to is a device where your legs and buttocks are supported while your upper body is free. This allows for extreme movement and stress on the midsection while performing simple movements.
Roman Chair Sit-Ups – Seated in the Roman chair with your body parallel with the floor and facing up, bend your body to near the floor, the raise your torso until you are nearly sitting erect, lower again and repeat.
Compound Roman Chair Sit-Ups – Performed as the previous except that you raise your torso with a twisting motion, alternating sides. This adds oblique stress to the abs being worked.
Roman Chair Reverse Sit-Up – Begin face down in the Roman chair, lower your face towards the floor then up to a nearly level position. This works the rear obliques and lower back muscles.
Supine Crunches – These may be performed on a bench or a floor mat. Lie supine with your hands behind your head and legs overhead and bent at the knee. Bend your upper body forward in a rolling motion, moving your head towards your knees, until the abdominals are “crunched.” Your shoulders and upper back will be off the floor but your lower back and buttocks will not be. The stress should be on your upper and middle abs.
Compound Supine Crunches – Performed as above except for a twisting motion at the top of the move, right elbow to left knee and left elbow to the right knee. This adds the frontal obliques to the exercise.
Chinning Bar Leg Raises – Hanging from the chin bar at arms length, raise your legs until they are parallel with the floor. Hold for a two-count and then lower and repeat.
Chinning Bar Front Levers – Hanging from the chin bar at arms length, attempt to raise your body level while keeping your arms straight. Hold at the highest point you can achieve for a two-count, lower and repeat. As you get conditioned to this you will find that you are able to get to nearly level and hold it longer. I have seen gymnasts performing this exercise on Roman rings and holding for a long ten-count.
Leg Raises – On a bench or floor mat, lie supine and place your hands under your buttocks. Keeping your legs straight, elevate them to a forty-five degree angle and hold for a two-count. Lower and repeat. This move may be performed in a compound manner by raise them alternately to the right and left. Another compound move is to raise them and then separate them in a scissors move before return to the start position.
Bench Leg Crunches – Seated on the end of a bench with your body stabilized by your hands and your legs extended downwards, raise your knees towards your chest while crunching your abdominals. Return to start and repeat. This one works the lower abs. This exercise may be made compound by alternating the legs separately.
Dumbbell Side Bends – With a dumbbell in each hand while standing erect, bend to the side, alternating right and left. This exercise works the obliques.
Dumbbell Rear Side Bend – With the dumbbell held behind your buttocks, bend forward and then return to start. Alternate sides, performing a set with the dumbbell in your right hand, then a set with in your left. This exercise works the rear obliques.