Ab Workouts: Building Six Pack Abs and a Lean, Powerful Core
A healthy body starts with a tight core. And a strong, sexy body-- one that looks great in any outfit-- starts with a lean midsection and well-defined six pack abs. Every targeted workout comes with its own set of benefits. But because the abs work in close tandem with the muscles that support the spine, the hips, the chest, and even the shoulders, our entire body stands to gain from focused attention to this area.
In other words, without the support of strong ab workouts, no bicep, calf, or quad-focused routine will fully take you where you need to go. So let’s talk about that belly.
Stomach fat: In a class by itself
The fat that forms on the stomach may feel and appear similar to the fat that shows up anywhere else. It weighs about the same per volume, it feels just as soft, and as we develop and maintain healthy eating and exercise habits, it seems to melt away about as fast as any other fat. But that’s where the similarities end.
Unfortunately, stomach fat represents a far greater health threat and a bigger physical problem than the comparatively harmless fat on our butts, hips, arms, and chins. These other forms of subcutaneous fat lie just under our skin and are designed to store fuel, provide padding, and not much else. The simple fat cells of our hips and thighs usually just lie quietly until they’re called upon for their energy. On the contrary, the fat cells of the stomach and abdomen lie close to our vital organs, and these special cells appear to produce a range of hormone secretions and chemical signals that affect the way our organs function.
Since abdominal fat cells connect directly to blood vessels that pour into the liver, and the liver regulates insulin, these chemical signals can wreak havoc on liver function and cause a range of health problems including insulin resistance, metabolic diseases, and diabetes.
So stomach fat has to go. Not only is it unsightly, it’s also dangerous. How can we blast away the fat on our stomachs and bring out the hidden six pack abs buried under all that padding?
Myths about six pack abs
First, let’s dispel a few common myths about six pack abs. Getting past these misconceptions can lead to better results, and it can also take some of the potential frustration and confusion out of our ab workouts.
Myth 1: Doing crunches will blast away my stomach fat!
Crunches are a great way to start building core strength, and we certainly won’t stand in your way. But keep in mind that fat loss can’t be targeted to a specific area of the body. When fat comes off, it comes off according to the body’s own mysterious agenda. That’s why doing push-ups can whittle fat from your thighs. Stored fuel is taken from wherever the body decides to take it, not from the area of greatest muscle activity.
Myth 2: But a million crunches will definitely bring out my six pack abs, right?
In a sense, yes. But keep your expectations reasonable. What we call “six pack abs” are defined abdominal muscles that have been strengthened and made visible by a reduction of the fat that lies on top of them. Some of us can have incredibly strong ab muscles that are still obscured by a layer of stubborn fat. See myth 1, above. You can melt away the fat layer with a regular workout routine consisting of both cardio and balanced, whole-body resistance training, supported by a healthy diet. Just don’t expect crunches alone to chisel your ab area into shape.
Myth 3: My stomach is round, but it’s strong. It feels like iron! So I have nothing further to worry about…It’s just the way I’m built.
What you’re looking at is a strong set of abdominal muscles that lie on top of the fat underneath, next to your organs. Don’t stop working out. That’s the dangerous fat under there, and healthy eating and regular exercise can bring it under control. But only if you stay dedicated and consistent.
Sample Ab Workouts and Exercise Moves
Here are few moves that can strengthen your abs, improve your posture, and tighten your midsection. Introduce these ab workouts into your overall routine and while the fat on the outside melts away, the muscles underneath will become toned and defined.
Ab workouts: The Bridge or Plank
Lie face down on the floor in push-up position, but instead of placing your weight on your palms, rest it on your elbows. Hold that position for a few minutes. Keep your body straight, like a board. If you’re doing the move correctly, you’ll feel a distinct burn in your ab area.
Now lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Raise your pelvis off the floor and lower it back down. Again, you should feel the resistance in your ab muscles and your back.
Ab workouts: Scissors
Lie on the floor face up and tuck your hands under the small of your back. Raise your legs off the floor and open and close them like scissors. Each time you close, cross your legs in an alternating pattern.
Ab workouts: The Bicycle
Lie on your back and tuck your hands under your body as in the exercise above. Raise your legs off the floor and pedal them as if you’re riding a bicycle. This exercise can target several muscles groups including the obliques and the rectus abdominus. The area with the greatest burn will depend on the control, height, and speed of your pedaling.
Final Notes On Ab Workouts
As with any exercise plan, your ab workouts will be more effective and bring more satisfying results if they’re supported by great nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. Get plenty of sleep, drink at least six glasses of water a day, and do your best to manage daily stress. Don’t skip breakfast. Load up on green vegetables, colorful fruits and whole grains. Scale back on red meats, processed carbs and corn syrup. And of course, if you have a chronic health problem or a specific concern about your body, check with your doctor before you begin a strenuous workout routine.