If you could alter any part of your body, what would you change? In a recent poll conducted with over 700 dieters, the stomach received a whopping 77% of the votes, with the legs and rear-end coming in second with a total of 10%. One percent of those polled said they like themselves just the way they are. A lot of people believe that doing crunches each night before bed will help them get that washboard look, but that is only a small part.
The abdomen holds the muscles that the majority of beginners struggle with because they take a long time to build up and require a low level of body fat to be seen. The abdominal muscle group consists of three major muscles:
- Rectus abdominis – commonly known as the abs, this is a large flat muscle wall that runs from the lower chest to the pubic bone. This is actually an 8-pack of muscles that is separated and innervated into the lower and upper abdominals.
- Obliquus abdominis – commonly known as the obliques, this muscle runs diagonally along the side of the mid-section from the lower ribcage to the pubic area. These muscles wrap around the body, allowing you to freely twist and rotate your spine.
- Transversus abdominis – this is the thin strip of muscle that runs horizontally across the abdominis. Your transversus acts like a girdle, or belt, keeping your body stable when external forces are placed on it.
Shaping a great body, complete with rippling six-pack, is something a lot of people desire, but few actually achieve. It could take you months or years just to work out which plan to pursue, with so many people tendering all kinds of different recommendations on how to get great abs. The following two simple steps will get you started:
Step One: eat right. The most important factor in getting washboard abs is eating a healthy diet. The reason most people do not have a noticeable six-pack is because there is a sheet of fat covering it. Just slash all the needless fats from your diet and decrease your carbohydrate consumption in order to achieve your goals. Break up your day with five or six mini-meals because this jumpstarts your metabolism.
Step Two: exercise. Washboard abs, getting lean, and losing weight are all tied into a steady cardiovascular program, along with weightlifting and ab exercises. For the average person, an abdominal workout should be carried out at least twice a week.
Bench crunches – are a great way to strengthen your upper abdominal muscles. Lie on the floor with your feet on a bench and with your legs bent at an approximate 90-degree angle. Place your hands on your temples or pointing in front, beside your legs. Raise your head and shoulders toward your knees with a sit-up motion and simultaneously lift your pelvic region. Flex the abs hard at the top of the movement to get maximal contraction and maximal benefits.
The ten-second crunch – is another good beginning exercise for firming your abs. Simply lie on your back and lift your shoulder blades off the floor and hold for ten seconds. Do ten reps.
Hanging knee ups – bring your knees as high as you can as you hang from a pull-up bar.
Advanced crunch – lie on your back with your feet straight in the air. Cross your hands over your chest and bring your elbows to your knees by flexing your stomach.
The cardio you do can be anything: walking, running, biking, swimming … whatever cardio you don't mind doing so you'll stick with it. Weightlifting is important because three pounds of added muscle burns as many calories as a one-mile jog – and this is while you're just sitting around!
Having a flat abdomen or more commonly, "washboard abs" is not just accomplished by working out every day; it has to become an all-embracing way of life. By some measures the glory days of abdominal form was a decade ago. But as workouts go the fixation of Americans with their abdominal muscles is apparently without end.
"Abs rule," said Kurt Brungardt, who wrote the best-selling Complete Book of Abs (1993) and just finished the manuscript for The Complete Book of Core Training, whose name contains one of the newest fitness catchphrases – describing a routine that is focused on the stomach.
Besides core training another new fitness craze focuses on the abdominal region: Pilates, whose practitioners have increased over fivefold during the last five years. Developed in the early 20th century by a German boxer and acrobat named Joseph H. Pilates, this regimen emphasizes flexibility, strength and balance exercises, even breathing, all in the ultimate service of building strength through the abdomen and spine.
Ab devices come in many flavors. Here is a short breakdown:
- Crunch machines and large balls
- Electrolysis pads
- Tablets and powders
You'll probably find an entire horde of infomercials and ads for products designed to help you get great abs if you surf any cable channel or take a gander at any magazine rack in town. You'd think there would be some secret potion with all the hype – or at least one top-secret stomach maneuver – for toning up that tummy, but as it turns out, it's really more about method than magic.
Always keep in mind that sustaining a fit, lean physique is not going to come from any pill, potion or infomercial ad. Instead, six-pack abs will come from eating a well-balanced diet, rarely indulging in "cheat foods," and hard work.