Without a doubt, the most sought after in-shape body part is the abs. Men want a six-pack and women want a flat tummy.
There are videos made exclusively for working out the abs – the popular P90X has it’s own separate workout just for them. But the true art of sculpting one’s abs still seems to elude so many.
The reality is that abs, like any other body part, do not have a one-step, quick fix. Despite the thousands of postings littering Pinterest boards boasting the next sure-fire tummy-flatening diets or exercises, there’s a lot that goes into having a streamlined mid-section. What you eat, how you eat, when you eat all play a part (not just your fat content matters, chronic bloating plays a huge role).
When and how you exercise the muscles is obviously of paramount importance. It is this issue that I want to address herein. I see so many people performing ab exercises incorrectly at the gym that I want to stand atop an Ab-bench and yell: stop, slow down, you’re doing it wrong! 25 crunches done with slow and proper form, will actually yield better results than 100 done fast and sloppy!
First off, there are three muscle groups that help sculpt a flat front: Rectus Abdominis (the 6 or 8 pack); Internal and External Obliques. Each of these need precise, focused contraction to help shape them into toned, firm muscles. Keep in mind when you see Models of either gender with the abs that you covet, they have probably not eaten much for hours or days leading up the photo shoot, are tall and lean by nature, young, tan (shows muscle definition better) and the photos are often retouched too boot!
Now then, to the heart of this article: how to work your muscles correctly. No matter what exercise (crunches, v-sits, roman chair, ab-bench) you must strongly tighten the muscles (contract) as you crunch or compact your mid-section (or raise your legs up) and then maintain that contraction (the squeezing) as you return to 20% higher than your starting position. Take a crunch for example: most people start on the ground, lift their upper extremities until their neck and shoulders are off the ground, then return to the ground.
Proper form would be to contract (pull tight) your abs, flattening your back to the floor, then curl your torso upwards until your shoulder blades are off the ground (breathing out), hold for a beat, then lower back down about 80% of the way (breathing in). You never go back down 100% (back to the floor) until you have completed the requisite reps. In this way you maintain a constant state of contraction on the muscles.
This form can be applied to any and all ab/oblique exercises. So now you can pick your favorite ab exercises and crunch, lift, squeeze, and contract your way to beautiful abs. If you seek further advice on ab exercises and/or proper nutrition, please feel free to leave a comment below so we can continue the conversation.