I love alliteration. But I hate Abs. Specifically I hate my abs... well my lack of them.
A few years ago when I started doing pilates I remember my shaky planks and positions. So I kept at it and developed a good core... by no means a six pack but the muscles were strong and protected my back.
So now that I'm trying to get back in shape again, I'm focusing on Abs more. Especially lately... I'm super sick of my gut. The Body Pump classes I'm doing a couple times a week have some ab work, but not a ton... so I do some extra stuff on my own.
Here are the exercises that make my abs sore... and stronger the next day.
The Plank: traditionally you balance your body flat like a plank on your arms and elbows and hold it. It's painful... my arms start to shake, my abs get wobbly feeling... but hold on and you'll work a series of muscles all over. Once your abs are stronger you can add movement to the plank to work more. I'm still sticking to the standard plank.
Double Leg Stretch: This is a pilates move. Lay on your back with a neutral spine, lift legs up at a 90 degree angle and lift your arms straight above your head. Curl up lifiting shoulders and hips off the floor. Then straighten out stretching your legs and arms... never letting your shoulders or legs touch the floor. Here's a step by step guide: http://pilates.about.com/od/pilatesmat/tp/DblLegStretch.htm
This is hard core pilates, but it does wonders for lower abs, which is really hard for me to tone.
Two of my fave ab exercises require a yoga ball. I have one I got for like 10 bucks on sale at Target and most gyms have them for you to use.
Ball Crunches: lay on the ball with it postition so the base of your shoulder blades are on top, and your shoulders and head roll back over the ball. With your feet on the floor about hip width apart lift your upper body up in a sitting position... then roll back so your body is curved around the ball. Using the ball like this gives you full range of motion in the crunch and will work your abs more effectively.
Lower Abs: this time you need to get on top of your ball. put the ball at your waist and roll forward on it until you're in a push up position with the ball under your shin. Then using your lower abs and legs roll the ball forward until your legs are bent and the ball is under your hips. This works your upper abs to keep yourself balanced and your lower abs as you roll the ball.
I just started trying to do different variations of these workouts once or twice a week... I can already feel my abs getting stronger. now I just need to lose the fat covering them up.