Have you lately take a look of yourself at the mirror? Great arms. Nice chest. Shapely legs. Wow. Wait, you forgot something! Yes, your abdominals! Sagging, bulging and in simple terms…unsightly! Talk about wrong proportions. Obviously you haven’t been focusing on that part of the body which seems the hardest to define.
Well, it’s time that you do because there’s nothing more gross than having flabby stomach when you can have great-looking abs. Forget about going to the gym. The cost of membership in a reputable fitness center average to about P3,000 with the most expensive going as high as PhP5,000! And the time that you sweat it out at these places would be better spent for yourself or with your family.
Achieving a flat and muscled mid-section should not be expensive, difficult and time-consuming. Besides the muscular anatomy of your abdominals are actually built for the desired look that you want. It’s the lifestyle that you keep that has contributed to its underdevelopment. This includes the unhealthy food you eat and the wrong exercises you engage in. What if I tell you that you can have the Janet Jackson or Michael Corbin abs that you envy with a set of 10-minute, 15-20-rep and no-equipment exercises?
Learn the abdominal anatomy
But don’t get excited yet, it’s important that you learn some facts about the abdominal muscles first before you can utilize them for an effective work-out. In the book The New Power Program by Dr. Michael Colgan, a renowned fitness expert says that all abdominal machines, crunch boards, sit-up devices, and torturous torso routines are not worth a damn mainly because of a poor grounding on the workings of the human anatomy.
So here it goes. The abdominals are composed of four major muscles and these are the following:
RECTUS ABDOMINIS. This is the infamous but improperly named “six-pack”. It’s actually an “eight-pack”. It’s a long, thin muscle that runs vertically down the body from the breastbone and fifth, sixth and seventh ribs to the top of the pubic bone. If worked efficiently and supported by good nutrition, it can help create the much desired “ripples” that poke out detailing the “eight-pack”. However, it can’t create a flat stomach. The muscle fibers simple run the wrong way for that to happen.
TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS. The transversus muscle holds your gut tight and flat. It’s a thin sheet of muscle running along the sides of the abs, which joins connective tissue behind it. Its fibers run across the stomach, join into the rear area of the abs and wrap around the sides of the body. It attaches along the rib cage and into the back muscles. It’s you body’s natural corset actually. When you suck your gut in, you have just used you transversus. This is the only muscle that can help you create a flat abdomen.
INTERNAL OBLIQUES. The internal obliques are diagonal fibers that fan out form the pelvis and ribs to the rear of the “eight-pack”. They provide a layer of support over the transversus.
EXTERNAL OBLIQUES. The external obliques, also referred to as the “love handles” are composed of fibers that run from the front of the pelvis and “eight-pack” back to the ribs.
Get it on!
You don’t have to memorize the definition or the exact anatomical description of the four ab muscles. What is important is that you know the placement of each muscle so you can focus your mind on it as you do certain exercise.
BASIC CRUNCH. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and feet resting flat on the floor. You might find it comfortable to lie on a towel or an exercise mat. Gently position your hands behind your head to support it, not to pull on it. Remember not to lock your hands behind your head!
Focus your mind on contracting the rectus abdominis before you even begin to lift your shoulders off the floor. This is vital as you are using the mind to focus the intensity of the exercise.
Contracting the muscles, curl the shoulders up and forward until the upper back starts to lift off the floor. Do not try to sit all the way up! Concentrate on flexing the rectus when you are lifting the shoulders, imagining you’re trying to make a dent on the floor with your lower back. Hold the contracted position for a full two seconds before slowly returning to the starting position. Then simply repeat 15-20 times.
Training tip: to increase the range of motion and to get more ab work, try putting a rolled-up towel under your back.
SIDE CRUNCH. Begin by lying down on the floor with your knees bent and your torso twisted so your left leg is lying flat on the floor but your upper body is still facing upward. Place your hands gently on the sides of your head.
Now, take a deep breath and begin contracting your obliques. Let that contraction slowly lift your upper body off the floor while you breathe out. As soon as your shoulders come slightly off the floor, try to hold that contracted position for two seconds. Then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position. Perform 12 to 15 repetitions and then reverse position to perform the same movement for another 12 to 15 reps.
Training tip: when you rotate your legs to the left, do not allow your upper body to rotate along with them. Keep your shoulders facing upward.
REVERSE CRUNCH. Begin by lying on your back, knees bent and feet together, about six inches above the floor. Put your hands behind your head like you would if you were getting ready to do the basic crunch.
Keeping your feet close to your hips, contract your rectus while you slowly curl your lower body up toward your shoulders, gradually rolling your hips off the floor. Exhale when you contract the abs, so your rib cage will drop and allow for a more intense muscle contraction. Keep flexing the abs until your hips and lower back are just slightly off the floor. Hold that position for a count of two, and flex as hard as you can! Then slowly lower your hips back to the starting position, take a deep breath, and repeat. Keep in mind that the slower you do this exercise, the better it works.
Training tip: one variation of this exercise involves placing the hands, palms down, by your hips. This is a bit harder and more intense.
Right now, you may be asking “Hey, what about the tranversus, the muscle that is responsible for a flat mid-section?” Don’t worry because when you do these exercises, you also work out the tranversus to a certain degree especially the basic crunch. But because the tranversus is such an important muscle for a great abdomen, there are two separate exercises that focus mainly on it.
The following exercises are the most efficient for flattening the abdominals. Practice these exercises 3-4 days per week and perform 2-3 sets of each for a flat stomach.
ABDOMINAL VACUUM ON ALL FOURS. Get down on the floor on all fours. Position the heel of your hands under your shoulders and the knees directly under your hips. Keep your spine in a neutral position and maintain this position throughout the contraction.
Start by exhaling all the air from your lungs. Then relax your abdomen and let it hand like a loose sling, but don’t increase the arch in your lower back. Next, pull the belly button up and in towards the spine without motion at the rib cage or pelvis. Hold the contraction for atleast 20 seconds.
ABDOMINAL VACUUM SITTING UP. In a seated position, exhale all the air from your lungs. After completely exhaling, pull the abdomen inward without motion at the rib cage or pelvis, and hold for 20-30 seconds. Continue to breathe lightly through your nostrils, but make sure you are pulling the abs in.
If performed with consistency, these exercises added will yield outstanding results within 3-4 weeks. Continue on after this period and in no time you can wear those tight shirts and strut your stuff anywhere. Just remember to supplement the work-out with healthy nutrition, weight training and cardiovascular program. And of course, set your mind to it because if there’s another muscle that really needs flexing and attention is that mass of tissue inside your skull: the mind!