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The Truth about Flat Abs

November 2nd, 2009 No comments

Absolutely no quick fixes

Last time, we talked about spot reduction, but let's expand on that a little... I’m going to lay it all out right now to avoid any confusion. Tight, defined abs are difficult to get and even harder to keep. Only those who are genetically blessed with a body that doesn’t store fat in the stomach, and those who stick to a strict diet and fitness routine, will reach what might be considered perfect abs. Even if they work hard and eat right, some people’s bodies just aren’t meant to lose the amount of fat necessary to reveal stomach muscles.

That doesn’t mean you should give up, just that it’s not something you’ll accomplish without a lot of hard work. It’s a good idea to become comfortable with the thought that your stomach may never be washboard flat. You should just be happy your strong abs are doing what they were originally meant for - moving and stabilizing the torso and preventing injury.

Can an ab machine get you cut?
If you incorporate the ab machine’s moves into a complete fitness routine the answer is yes, sort of, depending on how effective the machine is at working your abdominals. For the most part you don’t need a machine to work your abs. Regular, bicycle and side crunches isolate each of the abdominal muscle groups, while a number of compound strength training moves, such as push-ups and deadlifts, utilize ab muscles to stabilize the body.

Quality not quantity
When targeting their abs many women go for the all-or-nothing approach, doing hundreds of sit-ups a week. They’re often so concerned with numbers that they don’t give much though to their form.

If you’re not focusing on engaging your abdominals each time you perform a crunch, of course you’ll be able to do a huge number of them. Once you start doing ab exercises right you’ll feel results with a fraction of the repetitions. If you’re devoting more than two or three strength training exercises to abs you’re probably doing too many.

Are ab exercises the key?
It’s not just ab exercises that’ll give you a six pack. In fact, ab exercises make up the smallest part of the formula. Many of us already have firm abdominal muscles, they’re just hidden beneath fat. To uncover your abs you need to consistently eat a well-balanced diet. If that diet consists of more calories than your body needs at its usual activity level, you’ll have to burn enough calories through aerobic exercise to lose fat. Add to that a consistent routine of total body strength training and you’ve got the “secret to flat abs”.

The abdominal muscles

• Rectus abdominis - These abdominis muscles are responsible for the “six-pack” look. Work them and lose the overlying fat and you’ll eventually see those telltale stomach bumps appear.
• Transverse abdominis - These muscles lie underneath the others and act as a sort of natural girdle for your midsection. Really focusing on pulling in the abs during crunches and even during other exercise can strengthen these muscles and trim your waist.
Obliques - These muscles line the sides of your abdomen, often right below love handles and are responsible for torso twists. Side crunches, weighted side bends and medicine ball twists can really hit the oblique.