Abs – The Secret Truth

There are many reasons why having a strong trunk (abdominals and spinal column) can be beneficial to your functionality, performance and health. Whether you are interested in increasing your sporting capabilities, increasing your strength, stability and balance, improving your health and wellbeing or just generally to improve the visibility of your abs, a good training strategy for your core is an absolute necessity. Here’s why:

  • Stability during exercise reduces your risk of injury and powerful core muscles are the key to stability
  • Though core exercises won’t necessarily expose your abs, they are certainly fundamental in shaping and sculpting them
  • If you lift big weights or do a lot of heavy pulling, pushing or lifting during the course of your day then a powerful core is hugely beneficial
  • Balanced muscularity across the trunk can ease, reduce and sometimes prevent back pain
  • Your core muscles are essential in reducing the risk of back deformity in elder years (Hyper-Kyphosis & Hyper-Lordosis)
  • If performing rotational exercises, all core muscles are used resulting in improved partnership between abdominals, lower back and hips.
  • They look better, make you feel stronger, make you feel slimmer, and give you confidence to wear your bikini, your swimming shorts or the tight clothes you avoided for years

Abs – The Secret Truth… The Core Muscles:

These are the important muscles to remember when considering what your targets are with your training.

  • Rectus Abdominis – Helps you to sit up , the visible “6 pack”
  • Transversus Abdominis – Pulls you in and helps you to exhale
  • Multifidus – Controls the movement around your spine in any direction
  • Quadratus Lumborum – Controls spinal movement laterally
  • Iliopsoas – Allows the hips and tops of legs to flex
  • External Oblique – Controls and stabilises rotational and lateral movements
  • Internal Oblique – Controls movement laterally of the trunk
  • Erector Spinae – Supports your body as you bend forward

Abs – The Secret Truth… Here’s a few facts:

  1. Diet is at least 50% of exposing your abs. An issue an awful lot of people have is falling for advertising and marketing plans which present to you “healthy” foods which are actually junk foods in disguise. Before you choose your foods, check the fat content, additives and ingredients list. Although it’s a lot of added hassle, it’s also completely vital if you want to see that washboard midriff coming through.
  2. Sit Ups and other regular abdominal exercises are tremendous for building core stability, strength and muscle size and tone, but what they will never do, is expose your abs. They are not huge fat burners or calorie killers, therefore will not burn off your belly. They are however an essential part of your workout, improving your lifting strength in big exercises, stability during movement, balance, power and speed, and generally increasing your overall fitness and muscularity.
  3. Long, boring continuous cardio for hours on end, day in, day out is NOT guaranteed to give you abs. In reality it’s ineffective and inefficient. With half the time, double the intensity and double the effort, you can achieve the same goals. Cross Training and varying your cardiovascular training methods (Interval, Fartlek, Pyramid and Sprint Sets) will burn a lot more fat, increase aerobic and anaerobic fitness, and expose your abs in a shorter time.
  4. Sadly, gimmicks like abdominal toning belts, abdominal loungers, crunching machines etc. are an absolute waste of money, completely ineffective and a waste of time. They are generally useless and almost completely pointless. Don’t waste your time, money or effort buying them.
  5. Fat Burning tablets are often useless and sometimes dangerous, especially when used incorrectly. You should ALWAYS consult a medical/fitness professional before taking any tablets for any reason.

Abs – The Secret Truth… Here’s your workout:

A great way to increase your abdominal recruitment as well as sculpt a chiselled core is to include a short add on to the end of all of your workouts. This quick, effective and complete abdominal workout is idea for developing all of the muscles in the core. This workout will target your deep core muscles, visible abdominals (6 pack) as well as your internal and external oblique muscles.

  1. Straight Leg Crunches – Lay completely flat with your feet and knees together. Rest your hands on your legs and crunch your shoulders and upper chest forwards, without your lower back lifting off the ground. Focus on tensing and engaging your abs throughout the exercises and keep your lower back flattened to the ground throughout
  2. Pike Sit Ups – Laying flat on your back, raise your legs and point them vertically towards the sky without your buttocks coming of the ground,  reach upwards towards your toes, ensuring your legs remain as straight as possible
  3. Trunk Curls – Laying flat on your back, roll your knees up (together) into your chest and then roll them down, kicking them out until your body is straight with your legs remaining off the ground throughout (to make it easier, you can put your hands beneath your legs)
  4. Scissor Legs – Lay with your hands resting beneath your buttocks and your lower back pressed firmly into the ground. Crunch your shoulders slightly upwards to fully engage your abs and then lift your feet off the floor together. Once they are up, separate them as wide as possible and then bring them back together without touching the floor at any point
  5. 6 Inch Leg Raises – The same process as the ‘Scissor Legs’ but rather than spreading your legs and bringing them back together, keep your legs together and straight, slowly raise them 6 inches, then lower them and repeat for each repetition (don’t let your feet touch the floor)
  6. Straight Leg Rotations (Oblique Twists) – With your feet and legs flat to the ground, sit yourself completely upright. Stretch your arms straight out in front of you at shoulder height and then lean back until you can feel your abdominals take the strain of your weight. Once you are leaning back, rotate, stretching your arms out forward, to the left and then to the right for 1 repetition
  7. Bent Knee Rotations – With your knees bent and your feet flat, sit upright. Now you essentially follow the same process as the straight leg rotations except, whilst performing the bent knee versions, your hands stay planted to your head with your elbows spread as wide as possible; again, both sides is 1 repetition
  8. Crunches – Laying on your back with your knees bent and your feet off the ground, hands behind your head and elbows spread as far apart as possible. Crunch your shoulders and upper back upwards towards your knees whilst keeping your lower back as flat to the ground as possible. This move will isolate your upper abs and improve core strength significantly
  9. Full Sit Ups – Knees bent, feet flat, laid on your back. Hands stay planted to your head. St all the way up until your chest touches your knees whilst ensuring your bum stays stuck to the ground throughout the movement
  10. The Plank – (Perform for 30 seconds as a finisher to each circuit) Laying on your front, rest your upper body on your elbows and your lower body on your toes. Raise your buttocks and midriff by tensing and engaging all of your core muscles, holding yourself in a straight line above the ground for the duration of the hold. Ensure your back is not arched upward or downward. If you find this exercise particularly strenuous, start with a shorter period of time and build up

The key thing to remember with all exercises is to focus on form and technique, This will reduce the risk of injury and maximise the effectiveness of the exercises. It is important to include this workout for a minimum of 4 weeks if you expect to see results.

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