It can be easy to skip important areas when working the abs. Gone are the days of typical sit ups! Here are three exercises that will target specific regions of the core to improve your athletic performance:

1. Exercise/Stability Ball Crunch

Exercise balls can be excellent tools for working hard to target muscles. On the ball, the abs engage and help involve the entire body for an effective workout.

Directions: Lie on the ball, positioning it under the lower back. Cross your arms over the chest or place them behind your head. Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball, pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips. As you curl up, keep the ball stable. Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs.

2. Vertical Leg Crunch

This is an excellent way to focus on the obliques. It’s similar to a regular crunch, but your legs are straight up, forcing you to use your abs to do all the work for added intensity.

Directions: Lie on the floor and extend the legs straight up with knees crossed. Place your hands behind the head for support, but avoid pulling on the neck. Contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as though reaching your chest towards your feet. Keep the legs in a fixed position and imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement.

3. Lower Ab Crunches

With this crunch you are sure to improve athletic performance by working on an area often overlooked.

Directions: Lie face up with your knees and hips bent 90 degrees, feet flexed. Extend your arms and press both palms on top of your thighs. Take a deep breath in, and as you exhale, contracting your abs, pressing your lower back against the floor as you push your thighs into your hands, pushing back against them.