Ab Exercises: How To Get Great Abs

Wednesday, September 27, 2006 - 9:06am

By Adam Kessler, CSCS

Studies prove that an excess of body fat around the abdominal region increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a plethora of other life-threatening ailments. With so many good reasons to want flatter abs, I might safely assume that this is the reason so many new clients come to me asking for help in this area. Wrong! Many people desire a flatter stomach, but reducing their chances of diabetes not on their mind. Instead, they want to look good! So, let’s talk about how to get sexy abs that will be the envy of everyone at the pool.

A common myth about flat abs

First, let’s dispel one of the biggest myths about how to achieve ripped abs: If you do a million ab exercises, you will have a flat stomach in no time. Obviously, practicing ab strengthening exercises helps; however, going overboard on abdominal exercises doesn’t do any good. It’s a simple fact that overtaxing your muscles doesn’t achieve results any faster than if you practice a balanced, quality exercise routine.

Tips for getting great abs

Achieving perfect abs may seem like an insurmountable task, but this goal can be accomplished by following some simple steps. Here are some tips about getting a flatter stomach:

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1.   Spot reducing doesn’t work - you need to focus on the whole body

Unfortunately, spot reducing (target-burning body fat in one area only) is impossible, no matter what anyone tells you. To burn fat on your stomach, you must burn fat from your whole body, which means you must do cardiovascular exercises. Any type of aerobic activity that gets your heart rate beating at a moderate intensity will suffice. If you do aerobic exercises five days a week for 30 minutes at a time, your body will start using extra fat for energy. Eventually, your body fat percentage will reduce, and you will have less stomach fat.

2.   Don’t work your abs every day - they need rest too

Now that the body fat is disappearing, you need to strengthen the abdominal muscles so the area will be firm and flat. Abdominal muscles need to be treated like every other muscle group. This means you can’t work them everyday, despite popular opinion. After you work them out, they need to rest a day or two to recover. Focus on quality (not quantity). Pick two of your favorite ab exercises and do three or four sets with approximately 15-20 repetitions in each set. Some of my favorite exercises are the abdominal crunch, the reverse crunch, touching your opposite elbow to opposite knee (to hit your obliques or the sides), and toe reaches (sticking your legs straight up in the air while you lie on your back and reaching up to touch your toes).For more ab exercises, see The Secret to 6 Pack Abs or Six-Pack Abs: 4 Exercises for a Fabulous Core.

3.   Follow a balanced, reduced-calorie diet to help produce good abs

Finally, the big key to all of this is your diet. Chances are that a lack of exercise and a sloppy diet has contributed to your excess body fat in the first place. Because you are working hard to get rid of your fat and shape your stomach, you must also be vigilant about your diet, which can sabotage all your efforts if you’re not careful. Consume a low-fat/low-calorie diet with a good balance of proteins and carbohydrates. Avoid all processed foods-such as white breads, white pastas, and white rice-and replace them with 100% whole wheat products, fresh fruits and vegetables. When eating meat, select lean or low-fat cuts. Also, try to eat frequently throughout the day (five or six times is ideal). For low-fat/low-calorie diet advice, try eDiets Weight Loss Plan .

Ripped abs require discipline

By working hard, you can have a flatter stomach, but you must be disciplined. A lot of my female clients say they want a stomach like Janet Jackson. Obviously, Ms. Jackson has had her trials with weight fluctuations, but she has proven that when you combine hard work with a proper diet and exercise, you will get great results! Keep these tips in mind, be patient, and go out there and make everyone envious of your sexy, ripped abs!

3 Core Muscle Exercises That Build Balance & Stability

By Stacy Popke

You may have heard that “core” strength is vital to your well-being. But what is your core, anyway? Your core is composed of three muscle regions on your body: 1) abdominal, 2) pelvic, and 3) lower back. Basically, your core is any muscle located between your pelvis and the base of your ribcage. These muscles work together to support your spine. When you strengthen your core, you gain greater balance and stability. All people, from athletes to grandparents, stand to benefit from maintaining a strong core.

Isometric movements and good posture are important

The following three exercises will get you on your way to a stronger core. As with any exercise, perform your usual warm-up routine. The focus here will be on using isometric movements, or static muscle contractions. Isometric exercises work by maintaining a muscle’s contraction for a period of time. A benefit of isometric training is that it doesn’t wear down your joints.

With each exercise, maintaining good posture is extremely important. For all three exercises, you need to pull your navel in toward your spine while tilting your pubic bone toward your navel, (also known as “scooping”). Shoulders should be down and your chest lifted while keeping your back straight. During each exercise, a good rule of thumb is to exhale on exertion for each repetition.

1.  The push away isometric exercise

This sounds like a diet plan, but is actually an effective isometric exercise for strengthening your core. Begin by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Fix your posture as mentioned earlier in this article. Maintain it throughout this exercise.

It’s time for the actual exercise. Keeping your knees bent, lift both legs up. Place a hand on each knee and push forward. At the same time, have your knees resist this force. Hold for at least a count of six (and no fast counting, either). Return to the starting position. Repeat. As your core muscles become stronger, work up to six or more repetitions.

2.   Isometric push up exercise

Here, we take the standard push up and maximize its benefits to produce an exercise that will build core stability and endurance. Begin by getting into the normal push up position. That is, arms are extended directly under your shoulders. Your body should be in a straight line—no swaybacks allowed! Keep your neck in a neutral position; don’t let the neck hang down. Hold this pose for a count of six. Hold for longer, up to 30 seconds, for a greater challenge. Rest briefly, and then repeat for two more sets.

3.   Pilates hip circle exercise

Known as the “Teaser 4”, you begin this challenging exercise by sitting on the floor with your knees bent. Lean back with your arms extended behind you for support. Hand placement should be wider than your shoulders and with fingers pointing away from the body. Extend and lift both legs up in front of you while maintaining your posture. As your core gets stronger, your leg lift height will also increase.

Keep your legs together as you circle them to one side. Continue circling around to the starting position. Remember to breathe! Maintain control of your posture as you circle around. Do not compromise good form for a bigger circle motion. If your posture cannot hold up, then reduce your range of motion until your core is stronger. Do this exercise with your legs circling in the opposite direction. Repeat for two or three times.

How often should I perform these isometric exercises?

Do these exercises at least twice a week for optimal results. Also, core training is just one component for well-being and good health. Proper diet, good posture throughout the day, and regular physical activity are all a part of a healthy lifestyle. Cheers to your good health!


A former weight training instructor and Montessori school teacher, Stacy Popke works as a freelance writer specializing in fitness-related articles.