Flatter Abs: Is it possible?

Flatter Abs, The “Six-Pack” and a Trimmer Waistline: Sorting Fact from Fiction

It’s the most common question asked of a personal trainer or fitness expert: “How can I flatten my abs?”
But spot training with emphasis just on the stomach, or buying contraptions off an infomercial might not give you the results you want.

Registered Dietitian Melanie Douglass has the secrets for those in pursuit of “fab” abs.

Men, women, and even teenagers are all equally obsessed with the infamous six-pack. That’s right, infamous. I say this because for most of us, a six-pack is physiologically impossible thanks to our genetic make-up. And the attempt to achieve a six-pack would take unnatural caloric deprivation and excessive exercise. Don’t make yourself crazy with this unrealistic goal. Accept your body for what it is and set a goal to have the healthiest body possible—which includes a trimmer waistline, reduced risk for disease and more energy.

A “trimmer waistline” is very achievable and is a sensible, realistic goal.

However, there are myths that simply won’t die when it comes to the best methods to achieve flatter abs or a trimmer waistline:

Myth 1: Spot Training Works Wonders

False: doing 100 crunches per day is all you need to get flatter abs

True: you have to eat healthier, do cardio AND work your abs

Myth 2: You Need Special Equipment

False: equipment and gadgets like the “Ab Doer” the “Abdominal Lounge” or the abdominal roller are essential

True: you can effectively work your abs with or without equipment—all you need is floor space

Myth 3: Sit-ups Are Best

False: Sit ups work the hip flexors and strain the lower back

True: Crunches and sit-ups are not the same. Crunches are safe and effective

Here are 4 great ab exercises that—in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise—can help you achieve a trimmer waistline and flatter abs:

The Crunch

Start by lying down on the floor; bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor with your toes pointing forward and your knees about shoulder width apart. Now, place your hands at the base of your head, with your fingers relaxed. Keep your chin neutral—you shouldn’t be pulling on your head—rather, you should be able to place a fist between your chin and your chest. Now, lift your head, neck and shoulders up of the floor. Squeeze your belly button in toward your spine as you lift…and as you lower! Make sure your abs are contracted in both directions. If you neck feels tense, use your mental power to shift the muscular contraction to your abs.

Do 15 – 25 repetitions, repeat two more times if you can. Listen to your body and take a rest whenever you need.

The Plank

A plank is a balancing position you hold for 10 – 30 seconds at a time. This exercise mainly strengthens your abdominals, but works your entire body as well thanks to the total body stabilization that is needed (and developed) with this exercise.

Find a soft towel and get down on the floor on your hands and knees. Fold the towel over and place it under your hands. Now drop down your elbows, and let your elbows rest on the towel. Extend your legs straight back behind you and balance on your toes. Make sure your elbows are directly under your shoulders and your legs are straight. Your abs should be tightly contracted (pull belly button into spine), your glutes should be contracted, and your shoulders should be pulled back (don’t let your should round toward the floor). Hold this position for 10 – 30 seconds—breathing in and out in a controlled manner as you hold. Then drop to the floor and rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this exercise 2 – 3 more times.

The Reverse Crunch

Tighten the lower part of your abdominals with this valuable move:

Lie down on a floor mat, a towel, or the floor. Extend your legs straight up toward the ceiling. Your legs should be directly above your hips and the soles of your feet should face the ceiling. Place your hands palms down on the floor near your hips. Pull your belly button in toward your spine and lift your hips a few inches off the floor, then slowly lower the hips back down to starting position. It’s like you are stamping your feet on the ceiling. Don’t rock your hips, rather, keep it slow and controlled, using your muscles to lift the hips up. Exhale as you lift and inhale as you lower.

Perform 15 – 25 reps with the tempo of 1-1-1- (1 second up, 1 second hold at the top, and 1 second down).

Perform another 15 – 25 reps with the tempo of 2-2-2 (2 seconds up, 2 second hold, and 2 seconds down).

Perform as many as you can with good form; work at your own pace.

The Oblique Crunch

Here’s a great way to strengthen and tone your obliques (or the love handles!):

Lie down on a towel, a floor mat, or a just the floor. Bend your knees and place your feet flat on the floor. Bring your hands to the base of your head, with your elbows out wide to the side. Keep your chin neutral; you should be able to fit a fist between your chin and your chest at all times! Contract your abs and lift your right shoulder toward your left knee. Squeeze your abs at the top of the move and then lower back to the floor. Keep your head and neck in neutral alignment (look straight ahead).

Perform 15 – 25 reps with the tempo of 1-1-1- (1 second up, 1 second hold at the top, and 1 second down).

Perform another 15 – 25 reps with the tempo of 2-2-2 (2 seconds up, 2 second hold, and 2 seconds down).

Perform the most reps you can in good form. Always listen to your body and work at your own pace.

Have a health question for Melanie? Click here to submit your question http://www.tipadayguide.com/blog and Melanie will answer your question on an upcoming Studio 5 segment!

And for more information:
By Melanie Douglass, R.D., NASM
Author: Tip-a-Day Guide to Healthy Living
(Deseret Book, 2007)

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