Picture your body as a rigid plank, making sure not to bounce your head or only "push up" the top half of your body. Rather, raise your entire body from toes to head. Keep your abs tight and controlled as you execute the push-ups they should burn even though this set serves as a break between sit-ups. Finish with another brief seal press.
50 Left/Right Sit-ups
These are just like regular sit-ups, only instead of bringing your head straight up with each repetition, you are alternating bringing your right elbow towards your left knee, and your left elbow towards your right knee.
50 Chair-lift Sit-ups
These are great sit-ups for developing the oft-neglected upper abs. Most sit-ups tighten the lower four-pack of muscles, while this type of exercise places more emphasis on the upper four muscles in the abdominal region.
Lying on your back, lift your legs off the ground in a 90-degree angle as if you are sitting in a chair (only the chair is flat on its back). Again, placing your hands behind your head, slowly raise your head straight up toward the ceiling (unlike the previous sets, do not curl your head toward your knees, but rather reach your head up toward the sky, directly above you). If you do this correctly, it will feel different than the previous sit-ups, because you are working a different set of abdominal muscles.
"Bicycles" are not exactly sit-ups, but they work the abdominals just as well, if not better, than traditional stomach curls. It is important to do these correctly, in a slow and controlled repetitive motion, to get the most out of the exercise.
Lying on your back, bring your feet up off the ground as if you are beginning a set of chair-lifts. With your hands behind your head, bring your left elbow toward your right knee and then your right elbow towards your left knee, while constantly moving your legs in a cycling motion.
Rather than a series of repetitive motions like the previous sets of sit-ups, bicycles are a smooth, continuous motion as you cycle your legs while twisting your spine left-to-right, alternating elbows-to-knees.
Count 50 controlled rotations, then relax. Or you can time yourself for a minute, executing the motion slowly and methodically. This is the hardest abdominal drill, which is why it is last in the workout.
Upon completion of this dry-land set, your stomach muscles should be burning and an overall tightness in your abdominals will be apparent. When workout time is scarce, this simple set of drills can be done anywhere, anytime. On a hotel room floor in the morning before your shower, or prior to a scheduled workout, for example.
It only takes 20 minutes, but consistently doing this short workout every other day is a great way to strengthen these oft-neglected stomach muscles.
The result will be better form in the pool and a leaner waistline. Who wouldn't want that?
A former swimmer at Stanford University, Alex Kostich has stayed strong in the sport at the elite level even while maintaining a day job. The three-time Pan-American Games gold medalist still competes in—and wins—numerous open-water races around the world each year, as well as competing in the occasional triathlon and running race.