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Second Lt. Finis White, 20th Communications Squadron telecommunications management officer, works his abdominals with bicycles during his daily workout Wednesday in the fitness center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Gordinier)

Second Lt. Finis White, 20th Communications Squadron telecommunications management officer, works his abdominals with bicycles during his daily workout Wednesday in the fitness center. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Gordinier)

Staff Sgt. Joe Daly, 77th Aircraft Maintenance Unit electrical environment specialist, demonstrates how to properly perform hip raises. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Gordinier)

Staff Sgt. Joe Daly, 77th Aircraft Maintenance Unit electrical environment specialist, demonstrates how to properly perform hip raises. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman John Gordinier)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- (Editor's note: This is the second in a strength training series.) 

Strength training isn't always about trying to sculpt a body like Arnold Schwarzenegger's or to lift extreme amounts of weight to do one repetition or 'max.'

Building muscle mass is just one of many options available in strength training, said Penny Cook, 20th Aeromedical-Dental Squadron Shaw fitness program manager. It can also be used to change a person's body composition, boost the metabolism, tone up muscles, increase stamina and endurance, as well as slim down the waist.

After an invigorating workout, most muscles require at least 48 hours of rest before working them out again, but the abdominals is a special muscle, said Staff Sgt. Tia Thomas, 20th Services Squadron fitness specialist. It can be exercised every day.

In strength training, many Airmen perform countless sit-ups to improve abdominal strength for the Air Force's physical training examination, but there are many other ways to strengthen the abdominal and oblique muscles.

"The bicycles exercise is a great way to work all aspects of the abdominals and obliques," said Sgt. Thomas. "Like most abdominal exercises, this exercise requires no weight or machine to perform it. All a person has to do is lie down on their back, put their hands behind their head, bring the head and legs off the ground and begin alternating knee to elbow as if pedaling a bike. While performing this exercise, it is important to remember to hold in the abdominal muscles for a better workout.

Hip raises are another way to improve abdominal strength, Sgt. Thomas said. All an individual has to do is lie down on their back and lift their legs straight in the air towards the ceiling. Then, lift their hips up off of the ground.

"This exercise is a great one for the lower abdominal muscles," she said.

Another abdominal workout is leg lifts, Sgt. Thomas said.

"In this exercise, a person lays down on the ground facing up with their arms by their sides," she said. "Keeping the legs together, raise your feet in the air until your body creates a 90 degree angle. Then, slowly bring your feet back towards the ground stopping about six inches from the ground before returning to the up position. Repeat this process until the set is complete.

A set is a completed number of repititions prior to rest, Sgt. Thomas said. Beginners should do about three sets for the first three weeks. After that, a person has broken their muscles in and can perform more exercise, such as five or six sets.

In strength training, some might not see changes immediately.

"It is important to remember that changes in the body are not going to be drastic and quick," she said. "Some people work out for about one month and then quit, because they weren't seeing any changes. Performing abdominal exercises will build the muscles and shed off some fat in the mid section, but it will take awhile. If you want faster results, you need to watch what you eat and do aerobic exercise as well."

"Other exercises for the abdominals are toe reaches, crunches and flutter kicks," Sgt. Thomas said. "Plus, there are other abdominal exercises that utilize a medicine ball to improve strength and flexibility."