Abs. No one is ever happy with them. If someone has abs they like, they work hard on them. But there are still a few notions out there about abs and exercise That won't die: you have to be a slave to them to be happy with them, you can spot reduce fat, and one that still floats around gyms, you need to work your upper, middle, and lower abs separately, especially the pesky lower abs. Having chiselled abs may "look nice", but having solid strong abs to support a healthy back while keeping you functionally strong is even better.
Tips for Better Abs
Stop thinking in sections; start thinking core.
You will hear the upper, middle, lower abs fallacy in the free weight section of the gym a lot. This is because they want the "six pack". The "segments" are simply one long muscle reinforced by tendon bands so you won't split your gut lifting something heavy. This muscle is the one people covet. Honestly, people want to tighten it so their bellies don't stick out or sag. The other part of the abs targeted are the external obliques. When these are tight and strong, the spare tire and muffin top disappear. These muscles are often over-trained which can result in injury.
Consider your core as a whole muscle complex comprised of three layers: transverse abdominus (responsible for compression )in layer one, Internal obliques in layer two, then the rectus abdominus and external obliques in layer three. But people don't think about these as part of the complex: diaphragm, latisimus dorsi, erector spinae, longissimus thoracis, the serratus anterior, illiopsoas, and the intercostals. The back muscles as well as the tiny muscles of the sides and rib cage also make up the core.They work in a synergistic fashion. They should be worked as a team.
Stop worrying about sexy; start thinking functional.
What most people really want is a belly that doesn't stick out anywhere. Women don't want rolls above their waist bands or around their bras. Men don't want to look pregnant or have anything spilling over their waistbands either. The best way to work them is through multi-functional exercise patterns.
You can do some targeted work for definition, but honestly, the best abs I've had came from swimming and water aerobics.
Functional training incorporates multiple muscles into movement patterns. As a result, your body burns more fat. It also builds a leaner, stronger look. More so, functional training makes most activities easier to do with less risk of injury. If it weren't for functional fitness, at 5'1' and 115 lbs. I wouldn't have been able to handle a big heavy cable line to help my hubby connect the electrical box to our house nor help put up an awkward, heavy steel spiral staircase. Chipping the ice from our basement and hauling it outside two years ago with the crazy -20 degree cold snap could have easily put me out of commission. Think about this as well: Americans are obsessed with sex. It's time to stop obsessing. Instead, functional fitness serves us well in so many activities; attractiveness comes from a body that works well. Functional training is where it's at.
Stop spot reducing; start thinking overall fat burn.
Most people struggle with their mid-section because of excess fat in the abdomen. We do need a healthy amount for a lot of reasons. The excess needs to be burned which comes through aerobic training combined with strength training. Cardio burns fat, but lean muscle demands more calories from your body to maintain. Functional training combined with intervals or rest-based training burns fat most effectively. When you carry a healthy amount of fat, leaner muscle really functions well and looks nice.
Stop killing them; start training them.
There are some crazy terms people are using in the gym. Kill, shred, and burn. Step away from the marketing hype because it could really hurt you. Most of us as personal trainers only use these terms to promote certain intense workouts in small group PT and exercise classes. It draws a younger, more aggressive crowd while keeping the older people who could get hurt out of these sessions. Unfortunately, the younger crowd gets caught up in the adrenalin rush of it's sound. Mind you, these are very intense in nature. Keep sound training practices in mind. It's not muscle failure we are striving for, but burning out glycogen stores in the muscles while causing micro tears in tissue enough to fatigue them. You still need to be able to walk out of the gym, go home and make dinner, help the kids with homework, etc. Think functional.
Some of the best core training exercises are:
- Bananas and shrimp rolls
- Spider push ups
- Kettlebell swings (done correctly)
- Push up to side planks
- Rotational lunges
- Inch worms
- Turkish get-ups
- Kettlebell triangles
- Bow and arrows
- Good mornings
- Jars of Clay
- Pilates workouts
- Deep water aerobics (done with proper form) and swimming laps
- TRX work (done with proper form)
Stop chiseling them; start compressing them.
When you work the core as a synergistic whole, you recruit lesser utilized muscles like the intercostals, which cause the expansion and contraction of the rib cage, and the transverse abdominus, which is primarily responsible for core compression. When you use these muscles through compression, the tight lean look comes takes shape. The rolls in all the places you hate begin to disappear. Your balance and coordination improve. You can do more and feel better. Your back is stronger while your internal organs are protected. You can do so much more injury-free. People begin to take notice of the sleeker, leaner, stronger you.
Let me know how these post help you toward your goals. You can comment below or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
May God bless you!
Other sites to see about Core Conditioning/Training: