The Key To Great Abs

February 12th, 2013 posted by Karen Millard

by Karen Millard

Great minds were thinking alike this month. I had two requests for help with abs. The first came from a good friend of mine. A mother of two, Rochelle has exercised for as long as I’ve known her and has always been physically fit. But she’s also struggled with her weight. A few weeks ago she emailed me to tell me she’d finally lost the 25lbs she’s been battling since the birth of her son five years ago and has muscle definition she’d previously only dreamed of. Everywhere, that is, except on her belly. “Do you know of any way to tone the muscles on your lower belly?” she asked, “or has having the children ruined them forever?” The second request came from a Family Corner visitor whose abdominal work has resulted in a “six-pack” (that washboard look of sharply defined abdominal muscles weight-trainers are justifiably proud of) but who’s been having trouble developing an “eight pack”. So that’s what we’ll focus on this month. The lower abdominals. The part of a man’s body which has a tendency to become “paunchy” and hang over the belt, and on women, the part that just refuses to snap back into shape long after the baby has been born. Greg Davis, a Certified Fitness Trainer at California Fitness in Saskatoon, Canada explains that the rectus abdominus muscle group (which we know more affectionately as our “abs”) is comprised of four rectus tissues, bisected by lines of connective tissue where the muscle fibres don’t run across. This is what allows what is basically one large muscle to take on the appearance of separate segments. “It’s like having two biceps muscles side by side,” he says. // Weight-trainers and body-builders often talk about their “six-pack”. The term “eight-pack” however, is not as common. The lower two sections of the rectus abdominus are actually a lot longer than the upper sections and are hard to develop. Mainly because this is the area where fat tends to accumulate. “In women,” Davis explains, “this area becomes the post-partum bulge and in women generally the lower you go, the more body fat there is.” But of course there’s always a way! The abs are one area of the body where the connection between diet and exercise can really be seen. It’s possible to see a fair amount of muscle definition in your arms and legs even without paying strict attention to your diet. But if you want to see those abdominals, you really have to pare away the body fat!

So work on your diet, and be sure to include at least four 30 – 40 minute cardiovascular workouts a week.

With the basics taken into consideration, you can focus on the abdominal work itself. To train a muscle, you have to flex it. Abdominals are no exception. Crunches work because the upper abs flex as you curl your torso upwards. To target the lower abs in particular, you need to do the reverse. Choose exercises which require you to keep your upper torso flat on the floor or bench and curl your lower body towards your chest. (Just be sure to keep your knees bent. Unless you’re an advanced exerciser, and you have the utmost confidence in your lower back.) The thing to remember with abdominal work is that big results can be achieved with little movements. Take the reverse curl, for instance. In this exercise, which is basically just the opposite of a standard crunch, you lie flat on your back and keeping your knees bent, draw your legs and hips up towards your chest. It sounds easy, and like most exercises, can be astonishingly so when done incorrectly! I’ve seen many people do this exercise by rocking their hips up and down, not realizing that it’s the momentum, not their muscles, doing all the work. The real payoff in abdominal work comes when you take the time to do it right. Take it slow and concentrate on the movement. Sink your mind into the muscle, visualize the muscle contracting. This is hard enough to do when you’re doing a regular, forward curl. It can be almost impossible to do at first in a reverse curl. Not only is it simple hard work, it can be tough to isolate the lower abs. People often wind up exercising their hip flexors instead. It can be extraordinarily difficult to force your lower abs to contract enough to raise your legs and hips from the floor. When I started doing this exercise, I was five months pregnant. I found it helped to place the fingers of one hand on the muscle and press down lightly as I squeezed upwards. Just as watching someone’s face helps you hear what they’re saying, feeling the muscle helps you flex it. At first, the upward movement will be barely an inch or so. That’s fine. This exercise, and others like it, will reward the smallest effort. Concentrate on isolating and working the muscle, preferably in front of a mirror so that you can check your form, and on executing as many perfect reps as you can. You’ll improve fast. Remember, your aim is to develop tight, lean muscle in the abdominal area. So that means little or no weight, and three to five sets of fifteen to twenty-five reps per exercise. How many exercises you choose to do in one session depends on how quickly you want to see results! Other muscle groups need forty-eight hours of recovery time between sessions. Abs can be trained more frequently, (in fact I’d encourage you to train them three or four times a week in the beginning) but they will still respond to two sessions a week of perfectly executed, perfectly visualized reps. When it comes to abdominal work, success comes from sweating the small stuff! Diet, cardiovascular exercise, concentration and form. Go to it!

Karen Millard (11 Posts)

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Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

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