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The 15-Minute Strength-Training Workout

Body Part Exercise
Legs/hips Leg press
Back Seated row
Chest Chest press
Shoulders Lateral raise
Arms Biceps curl
Triceps extension
Midsection Reverse crunches

Since this is the first time we've introduced crunches and reverse crunches into the mix, let's go over proper form for these exercises. While they're gym staples, it doesn't mean that they're always performed properly.

Crunch Time
Crunches are the definitive abdominal exercise – sort of the sit-up of the twenty-first century. This exercise helps you develop the muscles that create the much-sought-after "six-pack." You can vary your hand position to make the exercise harder or easier. The easiest variation is to put your hands straight at your sides with your fingers pointing toward your toes. Crossing your arms over your chest makes it a little more challenging. Lightly lacing your fingers behind your neck makes the exercise harder still. If you really want to make it tough, holding a light weight behind your head will make the exercise extra challenging.

Regardless of your hand position, here's the drill:

  1. Lie on a mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Tighten your abdominal muscles and slowly curl your torso up for a three-second count until your shoulder blades are off the mat.
  3. Pause for a second and slowly lower yourself to your starting position for three seconds.

Crunch Tips
Imagine a tennis ball between your chin and your chest. Maintain that space rather than tucking your chin as you curl up. Focusing your eyes on a point on the ceiling makes it easier to do this.

If you choose the hands-behind-the-head method, keep your elbows back, rather than flapping them forward.

Come up to about a 30° angle. There's no reason to come higher.

Keep your lower back pressed into the mat at all times. This will help protect your back and make the exercise more effective.

Exhale forcefully on the way up and inhale as you return to the starting position.

Reverse Crunches
Reverse crunches, which work the lower section of your abdominals (the bottom two of the six-pack), are not nearly as impressive looking as other so-called lower abdominal exercises such as leg raises and "bicycles," but they are safer and more effective.

Here's the skinny on the reverse crunch:

  1. Lie on a mat with your legs up in the air with a slight bend in your knees. Think of yourself as a giant letter L.
  2. Rest your arms at your sides.
  3. Keep your head on the mat and tighten your abdominal muscles.
  4. Lift your butt off the floor so that your legs go up and slightly back toward your head for a count of three. Exhale forcefully as you rise.
  5. Pause at the top and slowly return to the starting position while inhaling.

Next: Manuals >>

Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Short Workouts © 2001 by Deidre Johnson-Cane, Jonathan Cane, and Joe Glickman. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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