Amazing Abs

Ah abs!! The area on our body plaguing us most of all … or at least this is the case for many of us. We’ve all at least once in our lives tried those machines the late night infomercials claim will magically covert layers of belly fat into a toned six-pack within a couple of weeks of 8 minutes a day abdominal (ab) exercises.

Contrary to popular belief, 1,000 ab crunches a day will not get you the six-pack you crave. As with all other muscle groups, exercises targeted at specific muscles build those muscles. So, abdominal crunches and other ab exercises build abdominal muscles, but if you have pounds of belly fat in front of the ab muscles, then this is all you’ll see.

In order to lose the belly fat, you have to incorporate all elements of the “Lifestyle Triage,” namely cardiovascular training, weight training and proper nutrition.

If you’ve been reading my previous articles on weight training then you know what I think about the stability ball, BOSU trainer and other such devices able to “unbalance” the body, requiring you to engage your core while working out. This undoubtedly gives you the biggest bang for your exercise buck!

Abdominal exercises are no different. While most of the exercises I prescribe here are done on stable ground, they are just as easily done on a stability ball, so why not add an extra bonus of core stabilization, which not only engages your abdominal muscles to keep you balanced but helps improve your posture, coordination and balance as well.

As with all exercises, make sure you do it with correct form and posture to prevent the risk of injury:

  • Your shoulders, head and neck should be in line with the rest of your body and not brought forward or up.
  • Contract your abs by pulling your belly to the spine.

Bicycle 2 x 15: This is scientifically tested and proven to be among the most effective ab exercises and works out all the different muscles that make up your abs.

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and raise your legs so your shins are parallel to the floor.
  • Place both your hands behind your head so your fingertips touch your head close to the nape of your neck, with your thumbs more or less behind your ears, and make sure your arms are flat on the floor, with elbows pointing outward.
  • Contract your abs, keep your right knee bent at 90-degrees and bend your left knee to a 45-degree angle and at the same time twist and raise your torso so your left elbow touches your right knee, keeping your elbows open, and your head, neck and shoulders stay neutral as they raise off the floor.
  • Return your torso to the floor as you bend your left knee back to starting position and then repeat the move on the other side to complete one repetition.
  • Make this exercise more challenging, by bringing the legs closer (and straighter) to the floor instead of in a 90-degree angle.

Ball Alternative: Lie on a stability ball with the ball under the small of your back. Be sure to keep your chest, neck, shoulders and head in a neutral position parallel to the floor, with your knees at 90-degrees. Raise one knee up and bring the opposite elbow in to meet the knee (they don’t have to touch, merely attempt to). Exercise caution if you’ve never used a stability ball before as you might find yourself rolling off the ball in a very undignified manner!

Reverse Crunch 2×15

  • Lie on your back, bend your knees to a 90-degree angle and raise your legs so your shins are parallel to the floor.
  • Keep your arms straight by your body, palms facing the floor, elbows straight but never locked. (arms straight overhead makes this more challenging).
  • Lift your lower body just slightly off the floor, so your knees come up toward your face, buttocks lift off the floor and you squeeze your abs. (Be sure not to use momentum to do this exercise. Do it in a slow and controlled manner so you engage your abs.)
  • Return to starting position and repeat.

Ball Alternative: Lie on the floor with a stability ball squeezed between your knees or ankles and then repeat the exercise above. You can even try and grab the ball from between your ankles/knees, and then return it, for added challenge.

Plank: 2-3 times for 30 seconds with a 60 second rest between each. Ultimate goal is to work up to 1 minute pose with 30 seconds of rest.

  • Lie on your front, with your upper torso off the floor, with your arms bent so your forearms rest flat on the floor, with your palms either facing the floor or hands clasped.
  • Be sure your head and neck are neutral and your shoulders and elbows and knees and hips are in a straight line.
  • Bring your toes under, and lift your hips off the floor so your entire body is in a straight line.
  • Contract your abs and draw your shoulder blades down so you prevent your back from collapsing. Try to avoid hunching or rounding your shoulders or your belly sagging to the floor.
  • Lower yourself to starting position and rest and repeat.

I haven’t even scratched the tip of the iceberg with regard to the number of excellent (and not so excellent) exercises there are for your abdominal region. But truly, you don’t have to do a whole host of them to build strength in your abs; nor should your ab workout be done as an afterthought to the rest of your workout.

Now that we’ve targeted all the major muscle groups, you can start getting creative and building workouts incorporating more than one muscle group at a time. There’s nothing saying you can’t do biceps, triceps and abs all in one session. Instead of taking a break between a set of biceps, do a set of crunches. Better still, do your bicep workout on the stability ball WHILE doing a crunch in between each bicep curl. The possibilities are endless! So go ahead Change, Challenge, Confuse yourself, or e-mail me questions and I’m happy to help!


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