The Ab-Solute Truth
Everybody would like great looking abs. But with so many different opinions regarding how to get them, who knows what to do? I think its a good time for a detailed review of the abdominal training fundamentals. Here’s what you need to know:
It’s all one muscle*
There has long been a misconception that there are “upper” and “lower” abs, but in fact your abdominals are one long, flat sheet of muscle that runs from the bottom of the breastbone to the top of the pelvis. You work the whole muscle with virtually any abdominal exercise you do. Reverse crunches are no more effective for working the lower fibers of the abdominal wall than standard crunches. If you want to get more of those lower fibers working, concentrate on keeping your abs pulled in tight as you do each repetition; focus especially on keeping that “cummerbund” region below the belly button pulled inward.
Mix and match*
Your muscles think it’s a big yawn to do the same exercises week after week, so after a while they stop responding. That’s why even though most ab exercises you do target the same muscle fibers, it’s a good idea to change up your routine frequently. Throwing new and different moves at your abs keeps them in a constant state of adaptation, and ultimately translates into better results.
Don’t wait to exhale*
Breathing is perhaps the most neglected yet most important aspect of ab training. By exhaling strongly through your mouth as you contract and inhaling through your mouth as you relax, you work deep muscle fibers that would not otherwise get into the act.
Simply blowing through a series of crunches is not very effective. Slow things down. Hold at the top of each movement. Don’t pull on your head or neck with your hands. Lift up and curl forward until your shoulder blades clear the floor. Take the time to truly feel your muscles working. If you can do more than 15-20 repetitions at a pop, you’re either not doing them correctly or the exercise is too easy. Strive for impeccable technique and experiment until you find a combination of exercises that offers an effective, intense workout.
Spot training – yes Spot reducing – no*
Your abs respond to training just like any other muscle; work them properly and consistently and you’ll be rewarded with a middle that’s firmer and tighter. However, don’t expect to melt away tummy fat by doing hundreds of crunches or by spending an hour a day with the latest ab gizmo. You simply can’t spot reduce this or any other area of your body. The only way to reduce the body fat around your middle is by combining a sensible diet with fat-burning aerobic exercise — and even then there’s no guarantee you’ll lose exactly what you want to lose.
Keep it real*
The appearance of your middle muscles has a lot to do with heredity. You can do everything right but still not have the flat, sculpted tummy of your dreams. Does that mean you shouldn’t exercise your abs? Of course not! Just have realistic expectations about what you can and can’t achieve.
Stick with it, Lee