What is the Best Exercise for Your Abs?

by Darin L. Steen

A flat, defined abdominal wall is a universal symbol for sex appeal, virility, power, and youth. At one point in time almost every one of us has wanted a smaller, chiseled mid-section.

Your first inclination may be to think that doing a lot of sit ups will develop the type of abs you see in fitness magazines. Many of you may have given up hope of achieving a tight, toned tummy. Perhaps you’ve bought into the misconceptions myths about fitness, fat loss, and aging. Many people think that it is impossible to have defined abs in your 40’s and 50’s.

This simply is not the case.

Armed with a little information, and some will power, anyone, at any age, can achieve a tight tummy.

A tight, toned mid-section is about more than just looking good. It is also about having a strong, pain-free back. It’s about being able to do functional activities. It’s about being able to remain strong and independent into your 80’s, 90’s, and even 100’s.

It takes more than just doing effective ab exercises to develop a lean ripped midsection.

Everyone wants to know the best exercise for abs, but ironically, the exercise is only part of the formula.

You Must Lower Your Overall Body Fat Percentage with an Effective Fat loss Program That Includes Resistance Training, Interval Cardio, and Nutrition

Most of you already have a complete six pack. The problem is that it is covered up by the fat that lies on top of your muscle, underneath your skin. If you want to see the abs you already have, you need to get your overall body fat percentage between 8-12 percent (for men) and 10-14 percent (for women).

Your abdominal muscles are relatively small in comparison to other skeletal muscles. Seeing them is much more about bringing your body fat level down than it is about building them up.

An effective exercise program should include both resistance training (two or three times per week) and Interval Cardio (two to three times per week).

Resistance training should utilize body weight, and free weight exercises using barbells and dumbbells aimed at increasing the size of your major muscle groups. Your chest, legs, back, shoulders and arms are muscle groups you’ll want to focus on.

One of the best, most time efficient ways to lose body fat is to carry more muscle.

For every pound of additional muscle, your body will burn 50-70 calories more per day. Build 10 lbs. more muscle with an effective resistance training program and your body will burn 500 -700 calories more per day.

Interval cardio is also an effective way to burn extra calories. Interval cardio is short burst (60-90 seconds) of running, jumping, skipping, or body weight exercises that get your heart rate up above 150 beats per minute. Each interval challenge should be slightly more challenging than the last, and followed with a 1-2 minute recovery phase.

Interval cardio is better for fat loss than traditional aerobic type cardio (aka jogging) for several reasons. But the most important is that with interval cardio you get an after-burn of 4-6 hours. That means your engine stays revved up and burns more calories for a long time a after you are done with the interval session.

With aerobic type cardio (jogging), you only burn calories while you are exercising.

Fat loss nutrition is a very important part of a fat loss program. You can work out with the most effective exercise program in the world, but your body will change only minimally until you implement a healthy nutrition plan. The exercise is the spark and the food is the fuel for your metabolic fire. It is the combo together that will make you strong and lean.

Effective Abdominal Exercise Tactics

Most of us initially are taught that sit-ups will create abs. The more sit-ups you can do, the better your abs will look. Or so we think.

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but sit-ups are not an effective exercise to build up your abs.

The problem with sit ups is that the range of motion is too large and other muscles help out too much, namely your hip flexors.

So ditch the sit-up and use the “crunch”.

The key with the crunch is to slow down the tempo and limit your range of motion. By slowing down the speed of the crunch, it is easier to focus on just your abdominal muscles.

With the crunch, curl your chin toward your chest as you exhale. Focus on pushing the small of your back into the floor during the contraction. The contraction should last about 3 seconds, and just your shoulder blades should come off the floor. Take your head and shoulder blades back to the floor for a 3 count as you inhale. Then repeat.

Variety is the Spice of Life

Your abdominal muscles are slightly different than your other skeletal muscles. They need to work involuntarily 24/7 to help your core support you in order for you to stand and sit upright. Thus, they need even more variety than other skeletal muscles in order to grow.

How, and How Often

There seems to be a common misconception that you can work your abs every day. This is false. Even though your abs have a slightly different fiber type as discussed above, they still need to rest and recover after they have been worked.

If your abs are not sore for a day or two after you work them out, then you more than likely need to utilize new exercises. Your abs will become immune to a technique quicker than other skeletal muscles -- usually within a couple weeks.

There are three major areas of your abdominal wall. Your have upper, lower, and side oblique’s.

  1. Upper- Utilize crunching type movements where your head is curled down to stationary legs
  2. Lower - Utilize leg lift and knee-pull type exercises where you pull your knee’s / legs up to a stationary upper body
  3. Side Obliques - Use movements where you incorporate a twisting movement. Also a side bridge or plank type exercise.

A sample work out may be to pick one exercise that targets upper abs and do a set to failure. Then do the same for lower abs and side obliques. Instead of doing all three of them together, try to do one at the beginning, middle, and end of your resistance training session. That way you separate each set of abs by about 30 minutes during a 60-70 minute session.

You only need to work your abs 2 or 3 times per week. Use one exercise for a week or two at most, then switch it up with a new one. All you need is 3 or 4 exercises from each area to have a complete library to choose from.

You can go to www.Mercola.com/peakfitness to see our favorite 20 effective ab exercises.

Every last one of you has the ability to have a tight, toned, midsection. Try some of these techniques and get involved in our fat loss fitness community to let us know how it is going for you.

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