THE INFAMOUS “AB” QUESTION

Let’s talk about ABS! Your gut. Midsection. Tummy. Belly. Stomach.

First thing’s first, we all have a six pack. Every one of us.
The “sexy six pack” that many people desire is due to the rectus abdominis muscles, shown in the picture below. These muscles run up and down the midline of your body, one on each side. Other abdominal contributing muscles include the transverse abdominals, obliques, and serratus anterior. By eating healthy, cutting out empty carbs/sugars/etc., and getting a substantial amount of cardio and strength training, these abdominal muscles become visible from the exterior, creating that sexy chizzled look that so many of us are after.

abs

I get a lot of questions about how to make abs “pop”, which exercises are best to strengthen abdominal muscles, and what types of food someone should eat in order to yield the best results for their midsection.

Drum Roll PLEASE…. Here is my “recipe for success” for YOU and YOUR ABS!

1. Abs are made in the kitchen

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Honestly, the best “ab workout” is done by your muscles of mastication (aka your jaw/mouth). “If your diet isn’t TIGHT, your abs won’t be either!!!!”
You will not get a 6-pack by doing 1,000 crunches a day if your diet is not on track.  Try to limit processed foods, excess sugars, empty carbohydrates such as white breads and pastas, and alcohol. “Flat belly foods” include lean protein, veggies, complex carbohydrates, and foods that are high in fiber. It has also been said that green tea can help with “belly bloat”. While along the lines of bloat, chewing gum throughout the day can cause you to swallow excess amounts of air, which can also lead to bloat.
*Another bloat contributor comes from artificial sweeteners and “sugar-free” products. I use artificial sweeteners occasionally, but I try to limit my use of these products for this reason among many other health concerns that come along with these foods.

One of my biggest tips when it comes to keeping your diet healthy is to avoid “drinking” your calories (sugary sodas, coffees, alcohol, juice) and try to get a gallon of water a day! (I usually drink 2 gallons of water a day, but I’m a legit crazy person…so shoot for 1 gallon and you will be good)

2. CARDIO

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The only way to “reveal” your sexy six-pack abs is to REMOVE the layer of fat covering them. There are so many people that want a quick fix, or a “spot reduction” ab answer, and the answer to that is…THERE ISN’T ONE! There is no such thing as spot reduction, and there is no way to reveal your abdominal muscles without decreasing your overall body fat % by maintaining a healthy diet paired with cardio and strength training.
By adding cardiovascular exercise into your diet, you will help put yourself into a “calorie deficit” that will help decrease your overall body fat.  This can be a slippery slope, as too much cardio can have negative effects on your body and can cause you to burn through your muscle.

My favorite form of cardio is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) and it involves going at a moderate pace for 1-2 minutes and then amping up the intensity for 1-2 minutes. This constant spike and drop in your heart rate is great for pulling from fat stores rather than burning up muscle. The other great thing about this type of cardio is that you only need to do it for about 20-30 minutes at a time! It burns WAY more calories than sustained moderate intensity cardio and it will really get your blood pumping and sweat dripping!

2 examples of HIIT training:
Elliptical- 2 minutes level 6, 1 minute level 12, two minutes level 6, 1 minute level 12 repeat until 25-30 min (change level as necessary)
Treadmill- 1 min jog, 30 seconds ALL-OUT sprint, 1 min jog, 30 seconds ALL-OUT sprint, repeat until 20 min

You can tailor HIIT cardio to fit your needs and it can be done on ANY form of cardio equipment (STAIRS ARE KILLER!!!!)
*remember not to do an more than 30 minutes or so at a time and really push yourself to yield the best results!

3. Abdominal Exercises

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Incorporating abdominal strength training into your routine is like the “cherry on top” for your six pack. Training alone will not result in 6-pack abs, but a strong core leads to many health benefits and abs that REALLY pop when they are visible.

One thing to remember is that there is no such thing as “toning” a muscle. Muscles either get bigger or smaller. Adding too much weight to your ab exercises will result in BUILDING abdominal muscle.
BUILDING ABDOMINAL MUSCLE = LARGER WAIST/STOMACH
I don’t know about you, but my goal has never been to “increase the size of my midsection”

To avoid this, I perform mostly body-weight exercises and NEVER do weighted side-bends. I cringe every time I see people performing weighted side bends because all you are doing is BUILDING the layer of muscle underneath your fat which will result in a larger waist. RUH ROH!
I will incorporate light weight to up the intensity of my ab workouts, and almost always perform the reps until failure to really fatigue my muscles and keep them in great shape. At the bottom of this post, I have listed a few ab exercises from my beautiful friend, Alicia Marie.

Remember– Your abs need rest just like your other muscles. Training abs every single day can result in over-training and yield negative results. Also keep in mind that many other exercises (squats, dead-lifts, stability/balance exercises, etc.) also incorporate your core muscles, so think of fun and new ways to add core strength moves into your regular training regimen.

Genetics and hormones also come into play when it comes to a person’s abdominal makeup, two factors that can be tricky to change. Work with what you have and focus on bettering yourself rather than comparing yourself to those around you!

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Good luck in your “quest to reveal your abs!” The results are WELL WORTH the work that it takes to find them.
Happy Hunting! xoxo

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AB EXERCISES thanks to Alicia Marie:

1. Ball with a Ball: Lying back on a Swiss fit (big) ball with a lightly (no 20lb’ders!) weighted ball in both your hands – arms outstretched in front of you – lean back over the ball, bringing your arms (the ones holding the ball) overhead with you. Contract your abs and slowly come back up, keeping arms outstretched. 3 sets of 12-15 reps

2. Plank and Bake: You know the drill. Put a mat or something for your elbows/forearms on the floor. Lying face down with your forearms on the floor, feet flexed – push up on your forearms while keeping your body in alignment (no saggy middles!) – squeeze and BREATHE (don’t forget). Hold for 30 seconds -work up to holding for a full minute. 4 plank holds. The ‘bake’ part is the BURNNNNNN.

Here is a GREAT descrip I found on the web. Thank the good lord because I am LAZY today!: Start on your hands and knees on the floor as if you were about to do a pushup. Lower yourself down to your elbows so that most of your weight is resting on the back side of your forearms (you should be able to give a “thumbs up” sign with your fists on the ground). Then, place your feet behind you as if in a pushup position, resting on the balls of your feet. Your body should form a straight line, with no sag or elevation of the hips. This is your starting position.

3. Crunchy Twists: i.e. BICYCLES (Crunchy Twists just sounds yummier!). Lying on your back on a mat – contract your abs and hit opposite knee to opposite elbow. Now I have seen people do these WAYYYYY TOO FASSSST. Slow down! The idea is to work both your rectus (middle) and obliques (sides) in one exercise. You fully extend one leg while the other is bent IN – you touch your opposite elbow to the bent leg – you are basically doing a ‘crunch twist’ (well, that sounds yummy). You repeat for the other side without rest. if you don’t feel this – you are doing it wrong. Do alternating 50 – 4 times.

4. Decline Bench-Ups: These kill your abs BUT also stress your hip flexors if done incorrectly – they should be put into the ‘advanced’ category.

You can make these work wonders by switching up what you do on it…come halfway up then down – then ALL THE WAY up, then back down again; use a light ball weight to press overhead and you crunch up; holding that same ball, crunch up and twist to the side bringing the ball over your hip and alternate; have a buddy toss you a ball on your way back (be careful – this can equal a gym disaster…this is *ADVANCED*). 4 sets of 15.

This is not a traditional exercise – but I lurve them because they challenge my lower abdominal area -which brings me to…my last fab AB exercise of the day!

5. ‘Roly Polys’: (or Reverse Abdominal Crunches) Yes, I decided to liken these things to the bugs.

These have to be done correctly (like everything!) to be effective so pay attention to this amazing description I found on the webbbbb:

  1. Start by laying flat on your back, with your legs straight and hands at your sides. Slightly tuck your tailbone underneath you to help you get a flat lower back. This is your starting position.
  2. Exhale your breath out of your lungs while simultaneously lifting your legs up towards the sky, bending your knees. Continue to lift until your glutes rise off of the ground and try to bring your thighs to your belly and your knees towards your head.
  3. If your strength and mobility allow, continue to exhale, and bring your knees to the sides of your head and press your legs backwards behind you as far as you can. This will require a full exhale.
  4. Once you’ve exhaled completely and cannot reach any further back with your legs, slowly allow them to track back to the original starting position, lowering one vertebrae of your spine down at a time. The key here is controlling the movement, and not allowing momentum to roll you forward.
  5. 3 sets for 10-20 slow repetitions.
** NOTE: The more you can exhale, the more you’ll be able to tap into your lower ab strength.
Check out RampUp if you are in the market for a fat burner to add into your routine!
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