I’m not going to beat around the bush here… The Truth about achieving toned abs and being able to actually see that “muscle tone” is to reduce the layer of body fat covering your abdominals.
That’s right! It doesn’t matter how many crunches you do, or what new machine you use from the continuous advertisements that hound us day in and day out. If you don’t cut back your body fat you will never see those strong toned abdominals.
Spot Reduction – A Fallacy?
You cannot spot reduce. Although you can change areas of your body with exercise eg.. cardio, weight training, body resistance exercises, kettlebells and more. You cannot just train or exercise one body part alone, such as your abs, and expect to see a whole new look. Achieving a six pack or toned abs is a lot more involved and I intend to show you how to go about reaching your new slim and toned waistline by following a few simple steps and hints.
A familiar tune…
I frequently receive emails of desperation with requests such as “I am happy with the rest of my body, but my wide and fatty waistline ruins my body shape. Can you give me just one exercise that will fix this”.
Or “I have a special occasion coming up and I want to reduce my waistline, can you recommend a supplement and some crunches that will make me lose spare kilos around my waist within the next 2 weeks?”
And “I perform 200 crunches per day and I still don’t see any difference in my waistline, what am I doing wrong?”
One More Thing Before We get Started – Don’t Rely On Fad Abdominal Workouts and Gimmicks !
It’s easy to fall into the trap of purchasing every new Ab “thinga ma giggy” that you see on TV. Let’s face it, most of us want to believe that some miraculous piece of equipment, or pills, will give us that toned tummy that the sexy girls and guys have in the ads for these types of products. Believe me, before I started in the fitness industry years ago I also thought if I spent hundreds of dollars it would work for me too. I was so upset when I found out that I actually had to work really hard at it and there was no such miracle cure or quick fix solution.
The Difference Between Firming Up Your Abs and Reducing Your Body Fat Around Your Waistline
Now that you know that the only way to trim down your waistline is to reduce the amount of body fat around that particular area you are probably thinking “where do I go from here?”. First you need to realise that a slim waist doesn’t necessarily mean that you have a toned midsection. As you know, to firm up your abdominal area you need to perform an overall quality resistance program. Many men and women do have slimmer waists or flat stomachs, but they can still lack tone and firmness. This where “resistance training” comes in.
“Why does my Waistline Grow Instead of Shrink when I Perform Crunches?”
One of the most common reasons that I have found for this occurring is a diet full of crap, calories from sugar and junky food, too many starchy carbs – especially towards the end of the day. Most people think that if they perform a few crunches every day their waistline will magically turn into a six pack! WRONG!
How could you possibly expect to achieve a six pack when you are consuming foods that are increasing the actual layer of bodyfat that prevents the ab muscles from being seen in the first place?
I know this sounds harsh but if you want to have toned abs that look like you’ve put the effort into producing them then that’s exactly what YOU are going to have to do. Do it properly and the results will come.
If you are increasing body fat, while also increasing muscle in your ab region you’ll often find you’ll start to “bulk up” around the midsection.
And on the other end of the scale, if you’re not supporting your abdominal workouts with decent nutrition your muscle can deplete. Leaving you “soft” around the midsection.
“So how can I Firm Up my Abs and Reduce My Waistline too?”
If you read through the steps below you will grasp a better understanding of how to attain the above goals. In no time you can get started on improving your training program to help you achieve the waistline you’ve dreamed of having.
Steps / Hints to Help Set You on the Right Track to Getting Started on Your New Ab Program
For each step I have included a list of things you need to remember when training your abdominals. I have tried to keep it brief but informative. You may like to use the following steps / hints like a check-list so you can remember each point when starting your abdominal workouts regime.
1. Resistance Training Program
* Train your lower abdominals first
* Breath out / exhale as you crunch up.
* If you have your hands behind your neck, make sure you keep your elbows back, and crunch up using your shoulders. (This will help prevent neck soreness)
* Keep your lower back secure to the floor or bench.
Note: I know that some people don’t agree with this but unless you are advanced, and have sufficient abdominal and lower back strength, (or have a personal trainer or exercise therapist that is spotting you) and can ensure that you’re performing the exercise safely, you shouldn’t be performing exercises that encourage you to excessively arch your back. Exercises like this are not for “newbies” that are just starting out training their abdominals.
If you’re on your own and find in general that your back arches considerably when performing just basic ab exercises then keep your knees bent and closer to your body so that your lower back is pushing into the floor or bench. Using a fitball (also referred to as exercise ball or swissball) can be of great assistance when it comes to supporting your lower back.
* When starting out (beginners)…
a. Don’t over train your abs. Three quality training sessions per week is ample when you’re new to training your abs – otherwise you’ll be struggling to move around due to those sore previously unused muscles.
Remember muscle needs recovery time to repair and grow. It’s muscle growth that increases your muscle development in your midsection. Overtraining can actually deplete the muscle instead of increasing it.
To keep things simple focus on performing your ab exercises on your cardio days or on non-weight training days.
b. Don’t go overboard with performing loads of repetitions. Rather than trying to achieve 5 x 100 crunches per exercise, hold for a count of 2-3, each rep you perform using 3 sets (per exercise) x 15-25 burning reps. This will help you reach better results. Your goal is to damage the muscle to promote muscle growth, so you’ve actually got nice strong toned abs to show off! As you progress over the following months you can aim for 4-5 counts per rep, that is as long as it doesn’t place a strain on your neck or lower back.
* More advanced…
a. Aim for 5 sets per exercise, holding each rep for a count of 3, performing up to and plus 25 reps (depending on the exercise) per set. This is for advanced folk only remember… so your abs should already be strong… meaning that you can perform much more challenging – but safe – abdominal exercises.
*Other Options… Abs cardio circuits. Where you take 5-6+ ab exercises that work various areas of your midsection. Perform one set of each exercise directly after each other. Quick rest. Then repeat another two times.
* Don’ t just train your abs. You need to be performing a full-body program rather than only concentrating on your abdominal region. Direct your attention to training each body part per week so that you can a achieve a “fit and firm look” all over. Many body resistance exercises also work your core, meaning your midsection is getting a workout as well as the rest of your body.
* If you’re including lower back exercises in your routine try performing your ab exercises first. Why? Because if you fatigue your lower back muscles first then move onto ab exercises you’re more than likely going to battle to complete quality reps for your abs – which can put unnecessary strain on your lower back.
For abs workout diet tips, cardio and workouts for abs see part 2 of this article.
Happy training folks!
Yours in fun, health and fitness
© Mandy Gibbons
Virtual Fitness Trainer
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