Having nice flat six-pack abs is what almost everybody wants and thus, abdominal exercises are becoming some of the most popular exercises. So if abdominal exercises are that good, why haven't most people achieved their dream abs yet? I have seen many people do hundreds of sit-ups every day, but they still don’t get six-pack abs. Well, the challenge of having nice abs is so much more complicated than just doing as many sit-ups as possible. You need to follow a complete fat loss program, which contains weight exercises (including abdominal exercises), cardiovascular exercises, and a good diet program to get rid of the excess fat covering your abdominal area. To strengthen and curve the abs, you need to do the abdominal exercises correctly, not frequently, so the exercises will be more effective in helping you to achieve your goal. Of course, you have to consult your physician first before starting any kind of exercise program. Here are some tips to six-pack abs:
- The draw-in maneuver. The abdominals are divided into two groups of muscles. The outer abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis and external oblique) and the inner unit (transverses abdominis, internal oblique, the diaphragm, and the pelvic floor). A complete abs exercise should include those two groups. The draw-in maneuver is a way to recruit the inner unit to jump into action. Once it is activated, it will strengthen the abs area to make it ready to do other exercises safely. To do this is very simple. First, just kneel on the ground with both knees hip width apart and placed straight below the hip. Put your palm on the ground to make a horse stance. Make sure both palms are shoulder width apart and placed straight below the shoulder. Pinch your shoulder blades together to get a good thorax form and extend the whole spine up. Focus on your belly button and your anus; try to pull them in as hard as possible, without compensating the spine form. Remember to always breathe easily through your lungs. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat it 3 or 4 times.
Progression: Once you don't get any more challenge from the exercise above, then it’s time for you to make a progression with a more difficult exercise such as the plank. On the draw-in maneuver, try to extend your legs one by one, then put your toes on the ground to support the body weight, to replace your knee support. Use your elbow and forearm to replace your hand support, without changing the position of the other body parts. Contract every muscle from top to toe to make sure that the joints are supported by their own surrounding muscles. Next progression: Plank On The Fit Ball, Side Plank, Reduced Support Plank and others in this group of lower ab exercises.
- Sit-ups. Grab a mat and lie down on your back, bend your knees, make sure you place the lower back flat to the ground, both hands reaching up, and your eyes locked to one object on the ceiling. Flatten the abs and try to get the upper body up, slightly off the floor by contracting your abs, not your neck. Breathe out to empty the abs of air while you contract. Do the movement very slowly and carefully until you feel that you cannot handle it anymore. You must never let the abs loose during the whole set. Progression: Sit-up on a fit ball. Place your lower back on a fit ball instead of the floor. Tips: Try to counter the balance first before you start some movements. Do the movements very slowly without moving the ball.
- Crunch. This movement is similar to the sit-up, but instead of trying to get the upper body up, you need to curl your chest toward your hips. Make a maximum contraction by emptying air from the abs. Do this exercise until you feel that you cannot handle it anymore. Progression: Add some weight on your chest.
- Reverse crunch. Lie down on your back. Make sure you place the lower back flat to the ground, both hands on the ground to balance and support yourself. Slightly bend your knees and pull both legs up to your hips (make an L-shape). Flatten your abs and slowly curl your hips toward your chest, hold for 3 seconds and then release down. Do this exercise until you cannot handle it anymore. Progression: Hanging Reverse Crunch.
- Cable rotation. You will need an adjustable cable machine or a resistance rope to perform this exercise. Adjust the pulley height to your chest level. Stand at the right side of the pulley with both feet hip width apart, put your weight on the right leg with the left leg only for balance. Hold the cable with your right hand, straight-arm, assisted by the left hand. Start to move by rotating the upper body with a pushing movement from the right arm, without switching the body weight to left. Hold for 3 seconds, then slowly rotate back. Do this exercise to the maximum intensity. Progression: Vary the height of the pulley to very high or very low, then the movement needs to be following the movement direction of the cable.
To have nice abs is not impossible. It is hard, of course, but as we know, the results are nice to look at and feel good, too. Go six-pack!
Novi Widayanti, Certified Personal Trainer
- Train Smart -