Feeling the bulge lately? Many of us tend to put a few ‘winter pounds’ on our stomach this time of year, safely hidden under woolly jumpers. Those eager visits to the gym seem a lifetime away. So before the fat really gets a grip – it’s time to take some ab action!
Keeping your abs strong is more important than just looking great. The many hours we spend sitting weakens the core, and this in turn makes us more injury-prone. Putting some extra work into building strong abs will increase your agility, boost your flexibility, and make you look great. The great news is that you don’t have to do hundreds of crunches to get the best results. The exercises we have chosen for you will work all three muscle groups of your core to the max in the shortest time.
Quick guide to stomach muscles
The stomach is made up of three core muscle. The rectus abdominus, commonly known as the ‘six pack’, is a long muscle running from your ribs to pelvis. The obliques, which run down both sides of your torso. Lastly, the transverse abdominus, which make up the deepest layers and helps to strengthen the core and minimise back pain.
According to a San Diego study, this is the most effective ab exercise you can do, producing high levels of electrical activity in all three key muscle areas. It mainly targets the external obliques, while the reverse crunch is great for the lower abs. This move really help achieve that washboard ab look.
Tip: To avoid engaging the hip flexors, concentrate on an initial small pelvic tilt. This activates the lower abs before the hip flexors can take over.
Lying on your back isn’t always the best way to exercise the core. Your abs actually perform the critical function of stabilising your spine whilst you’re moving. So during a squat your muscle fibres are actually activated at a higher rate than during ‘traditional’ stomach exercises. Plus you also exercise other muscles including quadriceps, glutes, hamstrings and calves.
Tip: Focus on keeping your abs tight as this provides crucial support to your lower back.
Studies show this is one of the most powerful exercises your can do for your stomach. You will generally find a vertical knee raise machine in most gyms. Alternatively, try holding onto a pull up bar.
Tip: Begin with low reps, particularly if you have weak stomach muscles. Because of its upright position, you are battling gravity, which puts a significant amount of pressure on the lower abs.
Exercise Ball Crunchie
Performing crunchies on an exercise ball was the third most effective abdominal exercise according to US research which compared different stomach exercises.
Tip: Keep the curling motion small, around 30 to 40 degrees. Once the curl becomes too big your hip flexors take over the motion.
by Kath Webb
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