07 December 2010 ~ Comments Off on Do You Need an Ab Workout Routine?

Do You Need an Ab Workout Routine?

It takes more than an "Ab Blaster" to get these. (Photo by Russ Anderson)

Abdominals are important. They form part of the core that makes you stronger and prevents back injury, and to most of us washboard abs are the most sought-after sign of fitness. Men’s Health, Women’s Health and Men’s Fitness can’t let a month go by without a cover story with abs “secrets” or the key to “blast belly fat.” The biggest-selling fitness equipment in TV ads are ab “blasters,” “crunchers,” “rockers” and “rollers.” There’s even a diet craze called “The Abs Diet.” Gyms feature rows of ab benches, filled with people doing hundreds of crunches.

Here’s the secret you’ll never, ever see on the cover of Men’s Health: There’s no such thing as targeting belly fat.

A Different Kind of Crunch

In fact, 75% of the process of getting killer abs isn’t an ab workout routine at all—it’s what you eat. If you stop eating the crap marketed to you on TV and start eating good, real food like vegetables, meat, eggs and fruit, you’ll see those abs much faster than the guy at the gym who does 100 sit-ups daily and then hits up Burger King.

The great part is, you can eat plenty of that real food. Consuming the building blocks for a healthy body will support your quest for abs. Just keep the fridge stocked!

Before long, you’ll not only be closer to killer abs, but you’ll also rid yourself of those lunch lady arms and man-boobs.

How to Build a Strong Core

Another abs secret revealed: the exercises most people do in order to strengthen their cores don’t do that much. Overdoing sit-ups and crunches can even harm your core.

Your time can be much better spent on strength exercises: you’ll not only engage your core (including your lower back, which is just as important as your abs), but you’ll also build your upper body to further enhance that V-shape everyone wants.

Then maintain good posture 24 hours a day—yes, the act of sitting, standing or walking can also strengthen your abs!

After you’ve lost the fat that’s covering them, you can do weighted resistance exercises to build the ab muscles, if bulging ab muscles are what you desire.

Exercises for Your Core

If you really want a workout that will help you to strengthen your midsection and sculpt your body, give these a try. In each case you should use enough weight to perform 10-12 reps with perfect form:

Standing Shoulder Press

Also known as the Military Press, a shoulder press from a standing position will force you to tighten your core and hold your body rigid, while developing your shoulders to enhance your overall shape:

  • Start in a standing position, with either a barbell or dumbbells at shoulder height.
  • Tighten your abs and push the weight up smoothly until your elbows are fully locked above your head. (Note: don’t lean back!)
  • Pause for a moment, then slowly lower the weight to the starting position.

Plank

The plank is an isometric exercise: instead of raising and lowering a weight, you hold one position for a period of time to place resistance on a muscle group. To get started:

  • Lie face down on an exercise mat, with your forearms and palms down.
  • Now raise yourself up on your forearms and toes, keeping your body rigid and straight (like a plank!). Contract your abs and hold them tight.
  • Hold for about 30 seconds, then lower yourself to the mat again. Rest briefly, then repeat.

Good Morning Exercise

This is a more advanced movement, in which you must absolutely keep your abs tight and your lower back straight. However, done right it will strengthen your lower back tremendously. Use light weight!

  • Start in a standing position with a barbell across your shoulders. (The Good Morning can also be done with one dumbbell or kettlebell, held with both hands.)
  • With your core tight and back completely straight, slowly push your hips back and lean forward until your back is parallel to the ground.
  • Pause for a moment, then raise back up by bringing your hips forward.

Instead of an ab workout routine, try these exercises. Others beneficial to your core include squats, deadlifts and just about any Olympic-style lift. Work in some leg raises and you may never have to do a crunch again!

Comments are closed.