Abs are your body’s center of power and provide core strength. Strong abs aid balance, help prevent lower back injuries and promote good posture. Consistent abdominal workouts (10-15 min, 4-5x per week) performed correctly are not just for physical well being, but for aesthetics too. The secret to developing great abs lies in treating your body as a complete unit. Don’t make the mistake doing hundreds of repetitions of abdominal exercises in the hope of getting a flat abdominal region. The fact is that abdominal muscles are NOT the largest muscles in the body. This means that your body does not burn too many calories during abdominal exercises. The secret is exercises that burn extra calories to lower body fat, allowing the abdominal muscles to be visibly toned and sculpted. Walking, cycling,swimming and jogging are effective.
These exercises involve the lower body, specifically the gluteals (the muscles in the hip and buttock region burn a lot of calories, the gluteus maximus is the largest muscle in the body) and the quadriceps and calves. Translation – you burn more calories, which means more body fat. Strength training for the back and shoulders also helps boost metabolism, which is critical to low body fat. Only when your body fat is low enough, can your abdominal muscles become tight and visible. This is where you need a routine consisting of exercise for lower abdominal muscles. Such a routine helps you define and sculpt the lower abdominals, giving you that ‘chiselled’ look.
Keep track of your abs exercises in a workout journal so you know which exercises work best for you and produce the best results!
A recent study showed that the classic sit-up is not the best exercise for stronger, flatter abdominals. This exercise generally involves the hip muscles instead of the abdominals, and in most cases, places an unnecessary amount of strain on the lower back. Instead, the ‘crunch‘ is the best option. The top three abdominal exercises are:
- Bicycle maneuver.
- Captain’s chair.
- Crunch on exercise ball.
- Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Place your fingers on the side of your head just behind your ears.
- Push your lower back into the floor flattening the arch and hold.
- Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedal motion.
- Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee in a slow and controlled manner and with full extension of each leg on every repetition.
- Breath evenly throughout the exercise.
- Perform 20-30 repetitions (up to three sets).
The Captain’s Chair is the second most effective move for the rectus abdominis as well as the obliques and can be found in most health clubs and gyms. To do it right:
- Stand on the chair and grip handholds to stabilize your upper body.
- Press your back against the pad and contract the abs to raise the legs and lift knees towards your chest.
- Don’t arch the back and remember to breathe smoothly.
- Slowly lower back down and repeat for 12-16 reps.
Crunch on Exercise Ball
The exercise ball is an excellent tool to strengthen the abs and comes out number three for working the rectus abdominis.
- Lie face-up with the ball resting under your mid/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 (i.e., you shouldn’t roll).
- Lower back down, getting a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 12-16 reps.
For best results with abdominal muscle exercises, remember to eat a healthy diet and perform aerobic exercise 3 times a week in addition to abdominal exercises. Watch your diet and lose that extra body fat. The best abdominal muscles in the world may be hidden by a stubborn layer of body fat.