For many people a six pack and flat abs are the holy grail of exercise.  There’s a lot I could say about how to do it, but in order to keep things short I’m going to touch on the two most important tips for getting the most out of your abdominal and core work.

1.  SPOT REDUCTION IS A PHYSIOLOGICAL IMPOSSIBILITY.  Doing crunches every day will not burn fat off the abdominal region (regardless of what informercials will tell you).  We are all genetically predisposed to gain or lose fat in certain areas first, but we cannot control it by working isolated areas of the body.  In order to have muscle definition we need to keep body fat in the lower end of a healthy range.  There are 3 things we need to do to reduce body fat:  reduce dietary intake, cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.  I’ve written a lot about this and you can read more about it here, here, here, and here.

2.  THINK QUALITY OVER QUANTITY.  

  • Work the muscles both on the lift AND the lower.
  • Do not let the muscles relax between each contraction – keep stress on the muscle for the ENTIRE duration of your work series.
  • Do not use momentum – make your muscles do all of the work.
  • Breathe out when you lift, in when you lower.
  • Every other day is fine – you should give your muscles at least 24 hours to recover.

HOW MANY CRUNCHES SHOULD YOU DO?  Build up to 3-5 continuous minutes of various types of abdominal and core exercises.  The more variety within the 3-5 minutes the better as it will work different muscle groups from various angles.

ROLLOUTS:  Start with both shins on the ball, body facing down, hands on the floor and spine in a straight line.  Keeping your legs on the ball, bring your knees up and tuck them into your chest as tightly as you can.  Tuck your pelvis under at the end of the movement to get a full contraction of the abdominals.  Roll your legs back out and repeat.

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PADDLING THE CANOE:  

  1. 1.  From a seated position, extend your legs out straight, feet about 12 inches off the floor.  At the same time, lean back keeping your spine straight, shoulders about 12 inches off the floor.  
  2. 2.  Tuck in and bring both knees over to the right side.  
  3. 3.  Extend both legs out and lean back again.   
  4. 4.  Tuck in and bring both knees over to the left side.
  5. 5.  Keep alternating!
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CRUNCHES ON THE BALL:  Begin seated on the ball and walk your feet out until the ball is centered between the hips and the shoulder blades.  Spine should be in a straight position.  Lift your chest and shoulders 3/4 of the way up – do NOT come all the way up to a seated position.  Lower yourself back down to a straight spine and crunch up again.

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3/4 SIT-UPS:  Lift the shoulders several inches off the floor – this is your beginning and ending position, so do not let your shoulders touch the floor until you are done with the series.  Roll 3/4 of the way up and then lower back down, keeping your shoulders off the floor.  *Be sure and ONLY come 3/4 of the way up.  If you come all the way up, there is very little stress on your abs and you will not get the most from this exercise.

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REVERSE CURLS: Bring your legs straight up into the air, feet directly above the hips.  Contract your abdominals, lift your hips off the floor, and then slowly lower down.  Be sure NOT to swing your legs and use momentum to get your hips off the floor.  Stay slow and controlled, as the movement does not have to be large.

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