There are many stomach toning exercises, and in order to find the best ones, you must make sure to target all the muscle groups in your stomach. Your abdominals have many different parts and muscles, but they can usually be broken up into upper, lower and side abdominals, or oblique muscles. It is important to strengthen all of these areas if you are looking to flatten and firm your stomach area. But be careful. Many times when people do crunches, they are not really strengthening their abs at all, but are rather hurting their back. For this reason, whenever you do an abdominal exercise, make sure to keep your lower back straight and firm, to avoid backaches and possible injury.
When working your upper abdominal area, you want to make sure that you isolate your upper muscles. This area is the most effected by the common crunch method. However, a better and safer way to do it is to lay on your back and rest your calves on something so you are seated in a chair position, but laying down. By raising your chest up towards your knees, you are isolating your upper abdominals and using solely them to lift the weight of your upper body. Try doing as many reps as you can in a set, then break, then do 2-3 sets total.
Lower abdominals can be tricky. This is a hard area that that does not burn fat easily. Once again you need to isolate this area so your lower abdominal muscles will be doing all of the work. Just as your upper abs lifted the weight of your upper body, in this case, your lower abs will lift the weight of your lower body. It is called the flutter kick and it is a strenuous exercise used in the military. Once again, lay down on your back with your legs out straight. Lift your head and neck and alternate moving your feet up and down. Keep your head up, your knees locked, and move your feet up and down so they flutter as much as you can for as long as you can. Do this until muscle failure, then relax, and do 2-3 sets total.
The oblique muscles are often the most forgotten part of your abs, but are highly valuable. They are key to your core strength and also help to burn fat from your love handles. For this exercise, lay on your back, bend your knees, and raise you legs up. Put your hands behind your head and alternate your elbow lifting up and touching your opposite knee. This is similar to a crunch, but rather than just moving up and down, it has a side to side element as well. Thus, lift your upper body up with your abdominals and touch your right elbow to your left knee, go back down, and then lift up and touch your left elbow to your right knee. Do this as much as you can for as long as you can, then rest and do 2-3 sets total.
The beauty of abdominals is that a strong muscle actually burns the fat on top of it. However, and let us be very clear, a flat stomach has more to do with diet than it does exercise. You could do crunches all day long, but if you still eat donuts and other high fat foods, you will never loose that gut and never see those stomach muscles. For this reason, you must maintain a healthy diet and severely cut down your intake of fatty foods.