Get Great Abs
The Health eZine - Exercise & Fitness


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The Ultimate Guide to the Perfect Abdomen

For both men and women training your abdominals to get "perfect abs" is a difficult challenge but has great rewards.

First of all, the "perfect six pack" are aesthetically pleasing to look at, but they are also a basic set of muscles used in many activities and exercises. Strong abs help protect your back and make it less likely to develop an injury. You should still wear a weight belt when doing heavy lifts.

Well exercised abs also help to tackle back pains (especially for elderly people). Studies prove that an excess of body fat around the abdominal region increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and a plethora of other life-threatening ailments.

But health benefits is the last thing on the mind of most people. For young men and women the biggest benefit of having great abs is for swimming, modeling and showing off to the opposite sex. Everyone wants to look hot in the buff.

For women who went through a recent pregnancy these exercises can also help to get rid of the "baby bump" they gained and tone up their stomach muscles.

Diet

Face it, most of us don't eat properly. You could do hundreds of ab exercises and still have a fat paunch. 90% of the time it means your diet is holding you back because your abs is the first place the body stores fat. So if you want great abs you are going to have to adhere to a sensible diet with low fat, moderate carbohydrates and high protein in order to get results.

Aim for natural foods and avoid processed foods and junk food which contain high amounts of fat and sugar. I have a protein milk shake that is ideal.

Note: Many people already have fairly strong abdominal muscles, but can't see them under a layer of fat. Your primary goal then is to simply exercise and lose weight so people can actually see your muscles.

Cardiovascular Exercise

Experts recommend doing cardio exercises the moment you wake up in the morning, before you eat, because your body is more apt to burn fat at that time. Jogging, cycling or swimming are highly recommended because they don't place much stress on joints. Cardio also helps to wake you up in the morning as the exercise releases stored fat and sugar into your blood stream and causes a "sugar rush".

A rare few people with high metabolisms don't need to do cardio to get great abs, but for majority of us cardio is a basic first step. A quick 10 to 20 minute jog every morning makes all the difference. Cardio plays a big role in helping shedding off the fat covering the abdominals.

Running places more stress on joints and it is NOT recommended. Stick to a nice comfortable jog or swim. Don't push yourself too hard.

How Many Should You Do?

There is a common myth that if you do a million ab exercises you will have great abs in no time. Completely false.

Don't overdo it and don't overtax your stomach muscles. It’s a simple fact that overtaxing your muscles doesn’t achieve results any faster than if you practice a balanced, quality exercise routine.

So what should you do? Pick a couple ab exercises that you like and do them every second day (see below), in combination with cardio and weightlifting.

Overweight and can't do a Sit Up

Achieving perfect abs may seem like an insurmountable task if you are chunky around the middle, but it can be done. Follow these four basic steps:

1. Focus on full body workout.

2. Don't overwork your abs.

3. Get a full night's sleep.

4. Stick to a balanced low calorie diet.

Unfortunately spot reducing (target-burning body fat in one area only) is impossible, no matter what anyone tells you. To burn fat on your stomach, you must burn fat from your whole body, which means you must do cardiovascular exercises. Any type of aerobic activity that gets your heart rate beating at a moderate intensity will suffice. If you do aerobic exercises five days a week for 30 minutes at a time, your body will start using stored fat for energy. Eventually, your body fat percentage will reduce, and you will have less stomach fat.

Now that the body fat is disappearing, you need to strengthen the abdominal muscles so the area will be firm and flat. Abdominal muscles need to be treated like every other muscle group. This means you can’t work them everyday, despite popular opinion. After you work them out, they need to rest a day or two to recover and get proper sleep (your body builds new muscle tissue while you sleep).

Focus on quality (not quantity).Pick two of your favorite ab exercises and do three or four sets with approximately 15-20 repetitions in each set.

Some favorite exercises are the abdominal crunch, the reverse crunch, touching your opposite elbow to opposite knee (to hit your obliques or the sides), and toe reaches (sticking your legs straight up in the air while you lie on your back and reaching up to touch your toes).

The biggest key to all of this is your diet. Chances are that a lack of exercise and a sloppy diet has contributed to your excess body fat in the first place. Because you are working hard to get rid of your fat and shape your stomach, you must also be vigilant about your diet, which can sabotage all your efforts if you’re not careful. Consume a low-fat/low-calorie diet with a good balance of proteins and carbohydrates. Avoid all processed foods-such as white breads, white pastas, and white rice-and replace them with 100% whole wheat products, fresh fruits and vegetables. When eating meat, select lean or low-fat cuts.

You must be disciplined. A lot of females say they want a flat stomach but to do it you need to combine hard work with a proper diet and exercise. You will get great abs, but keep these tips in mind, be patient, and go out there and make everyone envious of your sexy, ripped abs.

EXAMPLES OF ABDOMINAL EXERCISES

Situps

Of course everyone must know how to do that! If you have difficulty try sitting up at a 45 degree angle and then bending over to touch your toes and don't go all the way back. If you're looking for a challenge try spicing it up with weights, books, holding your hands out to the side, etc.

Ab Crunches

  • 1. Lie on the ground with your knees bent at 90 degree level
  • 2. Interlock your fingers behind your head ,take deep breath
  • 3. Now slowly curl your torso towards your knees, contracting your abs intensely. Exhale as you do it.
  • 4. Come back to starting position with a smooth motion. Inhale air again.
  • 5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 for 20 repetitions. Do 3 sets.

    Bent Leg Vertical Pelvic Thrusts

  • 1. Lie flat on the floor and lift your legs and bend your knees so that your upper legs are perpendicular and your lower legs are parallel to the ground.
  • 2. Slowly thrust your pelvis towards the ceiling, lifting your rear and tailbone off the ground about 2-3 inches. Pause at the top position.
  • 3. Slowly lower to starting position and repeat.


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    Roman Chair Sit-up

  • 1. Using a vertical bench, support your arms on the arm pads and back against the back pad. Your legs should now be hanging in the air.
  • 2. Bend you knees and lift as high as possible, almost to your chest.
  • 3. Slowly lower legs to the starting position. Hanging Straight Leg Raise
  • 4. Starting position is hanging from a pull-up bar.
  • 5. Straighten your legs out in front of you as high as possible, keeping the movement slow and steady. Try not to use momentum or sway.
  • 6. Slowly lower back down to starting position.

    Twisted Crunches

  • 1. Lie on the ground with your knees bent at 90 degree level
  • 2. Interlock your fingers behind your head,take deep breath
  • 3. Slowly curl your torso up. Midway twist it towards right ,back to starting position and then towards left.
  • 4. Repeat step 3 for 22 repetitions. Do 3 sets

    Body Tighteners

  • 1. Begin by lying on the floor on your back, with your arms above your head and legs straight out.
  • 2. Pull your arms down by your side and lift your legs an inch or two above the ground.
  • 3. Your back should be the only part of your body touching the floor, and your lower back should be rounded and in contact with the floor.
  • 4. Do not let your lower back arch and come up off the floor; this would place harmful stress on your back.
  • 5. Hold this position for a set amount of time (between 15 and 30 seconds). Rest and repeat for the same number of seconds as before.

    V-ups

  • 1. Begin in a body tightener position, but with your arms above your head.
  • 2. Then using your stomach muscles, bend at the hips and bring your chest and legs up simultaneously into a V-position.
  • 3. Drop your arms in front of you. Then drop back into a body tightener, but do not let your arms or legs touch the ground. Repeat.

    Tuck-ups

  • 1. Begin in a body tightener position with your arms above your head.
  • 2. Use your stomach muscles to lift your chest and pull your knees to your chest simultaneously.
  • 3. Drop back into a body tightener, without touching your arms or legs to the ground. Repeat.

    Bench Crunches

  • 1. Lie on the floor with your feet on a bench and your legs bent at a 90-degree angle.
  • 2. Place your hands at your temples.
  • 3. Raise your head and shoulders until your body is at a 45-degree angle with the floor.
  • 4. Return to the starting position.
  • 5. Avoid pulling on your head during this exercise because you could strain your neck.
  • 6. Exhale when contracting and keep the pace of the movement slow in order to maintain proper form.

    Seated Leg Tucks

  • 1. Sit sideways on a bench and grasp the edges of the bench for support.
  • 2. With bent knees, raise your legs slightly, and then straighten them.
  • 3. A good way to ensure proper balance is to lean back when needed.
  • 4. Lift your knees toward your chest while keeping your lower legs pointed downward, and flex your abs as hard as you can.
  • 5. Keep the tension in your abdominal muscles throughout the entire movement.

    Cable Crunches

  • 1. Use a tricep pushdown cable and comfortably kneel facing the machine with both cables in your hands. The cables should now be on each side of you above your head.
  • 2. Alternatively crunch down the weight to each knee.
  • 3. The contraction should be controlled and performed slowly to maintain good form and maximize the work on the obliques.

    Reaching Crunch on Ball

  • 1. Sit on a Swiss ball with your feet shoulder-width apart on the floor.
  • 2. Lean back, so that your back is almost parallel to the floor.
  • 3. Straighten your arms and point them toward the ceiling.
  • 4. Contract your abs, as you would for a crunch, while you reach for the ceiling with your fingertips.
  • 5. Hold the contracted position for three seconds.
  • 6. Slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

    Twist and Crunch

  • 1. Place a mat on the floor and lie down on your back, with your hands by your ears and your legs perpendicular to the floor.
  • 2. Twist your hips slightly by contracting your left oblique muscles; hold that position.
  • 3. Using your abs, bring your right elbow across your body to the outside of your left knee.
  • 4. Slowly return to the starting position. Repeat the movement on your right side. Do 10 reps.

    Russian Twist

  • 1. Sit on a decline bench, with your legs firmly under the pads.
  • 2. Lean back slightly, so that your thighs and torso form a 90° angle.
  • 3. Extend your arms in front of you, so that they form a 90° with your torso, and clasp your hands together.
  • 4. Keeping your back straight, your chest out and your arms straight, make a semi-circle with your arms.
  • 5. With your abs flexed, move as far as you can from right to left and left to right, and do the motion as quickly as you can without sacrificing proper form or range of motion.
  • 6. Work your way up to 60 seconds of continuous movement.

    Hip Raise/Leg Raise

  • 1. Lie down on a flat bench with your legs up and perpendicular to the bench (hold the bench behind your head for stability).
  • 2. Lift your hips slightly off the bench by contracting your lower abs, hold for three seconds, and lower your hips.
  • 3. Keep your back flat on the bench, your legs straight and lower your legs until they almost form a straight line with the rest of your body.
  • 4. Hold for a count of three and bring them back to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

    Woodchop

  • 1. Add some weight (try 25 pounds) to a multipurpose pulley machine and grasp the handle attachment at shoulder height with your left hand.
  • 2. Square yourself to the machine and take a few steps to the right (away from the machine) until there is sufficient tension.
  • 3. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, bring your right arm across your body, and clasp your hands together while holding the handle.
  • 4. Keeping your arms straight and at shoulder-height, use your abs to bring your arms across your body, as though you were making a woodchopping motion.
  • 5. Bring them back to the starting position. Do 10 reps on each side for the excellent core workout.

    Jackknife

  • 1. Place a mat on the floor, lie down on your back and extend your arms above your head.
  • 2. Simultaneously lift your arms and legs toward the ceiling, until your fingertips touch your toes (if you can).
  • 3. Slowly return to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

    Windshield Wipers

  • 1. Place a mat on the floor and lie on on your back with your arms in the "T" position for stability.
  • 2. Lift your legs so that they are perpendicular to the floor.
  • 3. Rotate your hips, keeping them in contact with the floor, so that your legs move from left to right, in a "windshield wiper" motion.
  • 4. Make sure to move in a slow and controlled manner. Do 10 reps.

    Reverse Crunch

  • 1. Lie down on a bench with your knees bent and your upper legs at a 90° angle with your torso; grab the bench above your head for stability.
  • 2. Use your ab muscles to pull your knees toward your chest until they reach your elbows.
  • 3. Hold the crunch position for three seconds and return to the starting position. Do 10 reps.

    Side Crunch on Ball

  • 1. Instructions: Firmly place your right hip on a Swiss ball and lean into the ball; ensure that your torso is off the ball.
  • 2. Support yourself by pressing the soles of your feet against the bottom of a wall.
  • 3. Place your hands by your ears, and contract your left oblique muscles, lifting your torso up as far as you can.
  • 4. Hold for three seconds and release. Do 10 reps and repeat on the opposite side.

    Front Plank on Ball

  • 1. Rest your elbows on a flat bench and the balls of your feet on an exercise ball.
  • 2. Contract your abs so that your body is parallel to the floor and there is no dip in your lower back.
  • 3. Hold the plank position for 60 seconds.

    Protein Milk Shake

    Mix the following together in a bowl or pitcher, using a blender or a Braun Hand Mixer:

  • 2 or more raw eggs.
  • 500 mL (2 cups) of milk.
  • One scoop of your favourite low calories ice cream. Mmm chocolate...
  • Optional: 1 banana, a cup of raspberries or strawberries (with vanilla ice cream).

    Blend well and enjoy. You will barely notice the taste of the raw eggs.

    For fun, pour it in a sundae and add a cherry.

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