Truth About Great Abs
Exercising Your Abs Can Make Them Stronger, But It Takes Diet
and Exercise, Too.
Experts say that without diet changes and cardiovascular exercise,
you simply won't lose the fat that will show off your midriff.
Each day, thousands of sit-ups and crunches are done in gyms
across the country in the hopes of attaining a great mid-section.
Fitness instructors have satisfied the quest for the perfectly
sculpted stomach by creating hundreds of different ways to exercise
this one area of the body.
And for those who are looking for an easy road to beach beauty,
numerous infomercials touting electrical stimulators and gut enhancing
workout machines tempt viewers with the prospect of seemingly
effortless approaches to a solid middle.
So will all these efforts really result in a firm stomach? Not
by themselves, experts say.
The Truth Behind
a Tight Tummy
Strong abdominal muscles are good to have for several reasons,
including protecting our internal organs, aiding the lungs in
breathing, and maintaining good posture, which can help reduce
low back pain.
But the idea that exercising the stomach muscles will result
in an attractive, toned midsection is false.
"You can have very strong abdominal muscles, but never see them
because of a layer of fat covering them," explains Jeffrey Potteiger,
director of the health and human performance laboratory at Virginia
Commonwealth University in Richmond, Va.
Without diet modification and cardiovascular exercise, you simply
won't lose the fat that will show off your midriff. "If you are
not burning as many calories as you are taking in, you will not
change the appearance of the fat tissue surrounding your abdominal
muscles," says Peter Francis, director of the biomechanics lab
at San Diego State University.
And there is no such thing as spot reduction, adds Potteiger.
"When you lose body fat, you lose it from everywhere, and there
is no way to target one particular area."
No matter how convincing some infomercials may seem, the truth
is that there is no easy way to attain a toned midsection. Most
of the models depicted in those ads were selected because they
already look that way.
"Most of those people have never even used those machines,"
says Potteiger. They've either been blessed with great genetics
or they've been engaging in a strict diet and exercise regimen
that allows them to maintain a low level of body fat."
He concludes: "If you want your abdominal muscles to get stronger,
you have to work them harder. If you want to get a washboard appearance,
you have to rely on diet modification instead of working to make
the Abdominal Muscles More Effectively
Just because strong abdominal muscles do not directly translate
into a toned, washboard-like midsection does not mean that you
should avoid exercising them.
But because gym-goers have hundreds of different options to
exercise their abdominal muscles, Francis set out to evaluate
which ones were truly most effective.
He and his colleagues studied 13 of the most popular abdominal
exercises, measuring the effectiveness of each by the level of
electrical activity in the abdominal muscle during the movements.
Of the 13, three exercises required the muscles to work significantly
harder than the rest. Two can be done without fancy equipment.
"The bicycle crunch exercise, the reverse curl and the 'Captain's
Chair' proved to be the most effective exercises as far as muscle
recruitment goes," says Francis. "And what we found was that the
things you pay for are no more effective than the ones you don't,
except for the 'Captain's Chair,' which is typically not a piece
of equipment for the home."
So, to start working on that "summer stomach," eat a healthy
diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and include cardiovascular
activity in your exercise program. Then, try these three proven
ab-workers at your home or gym:
- Bicycle Crunch: Lie on the floor with your lower back
pressed into the floor. Bring the hands behind the head. Starting
with the legs bent at a 45-degree angle, bring the right knee
into the chest while extending the left leg out straight. At
the same time, rotate the torso so that the left elbow goes
to the right knee, then switch so that the left elbow goes towards
the right knee.
- Reverse Crunch: Lie flat on the floor with your lower
back pressed into the ground. Raise your legs into the air and
bend your the knees to a 90-degree angle. Keeping your legs
still, lift your hips up off the ground, and return to starting
- Captain's Chair: This exercise requires a piece of
gym equipment, the Captain's Chair, which looks like a tall
chair without a seat. Stabilize your body on the chair by pressing
your back against the back pad. Place your elbows on the armrests
and grip the handles. Step off the footrests and let your legs
hang while holding yourself up. Lift your knees towards your
chest and then return them to starting position.
Begin by performing 8-12 repetitions of each exercise, about
2-3 times per week. As the exercises become easier, begin increasing
the number of repetitions.
While these exercises are considered the most effective, they
are not necessarily the most appropriate for everyone. If you
are just beginning an exercise program, it is important to consult
a qualified personal trainer who can advise you where to start.
If you've had any history of injuries, especially to the low back
area, you should consult a physical therapist or an exercise physiologist
before you begin
Check out more Great Ab Exercises
Reference Source 104