We just heard that collective groan; quit your belly-aching. (We know… an awful pun.)

Ab exercises are important because they're what help you look good after you've chipped all the fat away. Think about it - you can lose all the weight you want and you'll look skinny, but it's the ab exercises that create the 6-pack look. Ab exercises also help to suppress fat buildup; bigger muscles mean that the fat you eat burns quicker.

One advantage of building the abdominal muscles is the many different exercises to choose from, helping you to avoid the monotony of endless sit-ups and thus to stay motivated. One surefire piece of advice is this: AVOID SIT-UPS. These old-fashioned exercises are almost always done incorrectly, putting extra unnecessary and unhealthy pressure on the lower back while failing to fully train the abdominal muscles.

The fitness profession has settled on crunches as the most basic and effective way to tone the abs. Here's how to do a proper crunch:

  1. Lie down

  2. Put your hands behind your neck (don't pull too hard on the neck)

  3. Pull your knees in just above the hips with your feet flat on the floor

  4. Lift your shoulders no more than 30 degrees above the ground
  5. Hold for 3 full seconds

  6. Then slowly return the shoulders to a resting position.

  7. Repeat until you are ripped

Beginners should do 1 set of as many repetitions as it takes to make the abs burn. It is standard for huge bumpy musclemen to do 3 sets of about 25 to 30 repetitions. Do these exercises at least 3 times a week.

That's it, you say? Not exactly; crunches work the upper abs, but you can't forget about the lower abs or obliques (love handles).

A good exercise for working the lower abs is leg lifts. You can do these lying down on a flat bench or any other bench-like surface. Here's how to proceed:

  1. Lie down flat on your back on a bench

  2. Lift your legs (straight out) about 45 degrees in the air

  3. Then return them slowly to the resting position (without touching the ground)

  4. Repeat until you cry

The sets and reps should be the same as for crunches. Reverse crunches, in which you pull the knees into your chest as you lift your shoulders, are also effective ways of exercising the lower abs.

Doing crunches with a twist will work the obliques. Just lay your knees to your side instead of having your feet flat on the floor. Then do your normal crunches (be sure to do both sides).

For a more detailed description of many more abdominal exercises, visit SeekWellness.com or How to Build and Define Your Abdominals on eHow.com.