Of all the tweets and messages I receive, by far the most common questions are related to how to get abs. A problem area for the majority of women, the lower stomach is particularly stubborn to shift. Despite the title of this post, there are no magical secrets to a flat stomach. Just a few golden rules that will help dispel diet myths and let you quit those 100 daily crunches.
Firstly, be realistic. I’m lucky that I’ve never stored fat on my tummy, it all hits my thighs and glutes. I lust over quad definition the same way other girls dream of washboard abs. At the end of the day, you can’t fight genetics, or where your body chooses to store fat; just like you can’t target where you lose fat from. There will always be areas which take much more work to show results than others and these are different for everyone.
Secondly, if your workout is based around compound exercises like barbell squats, deadlifts and pull-ups, your core will be working hard and those elusive abs should start to show much more quickly than hours of slavish crunching would allow. Fat-torching cardio, good form on heavy lifting compound exercises and an hour a week on abs has worked better for me than high rep sit-ups on the living room floor.
Finally, but also most importantly, abs really are made in the kitchen. Protein based meals, good fats from oily fish, nuts and avocado, alongside slow release carbohydrates will keep you fuller for longer and free from bloating. Listen to your body, if something bloats you up, don’t eat it for a week and see if you notice a difference. Sugar, refined carbs and alcohol will wreck your digestion and sabotage your brick wall stomach. Everything in moderation, but if you’ve got an event or holiday you’re desperate to wear a crop top for, then limiting these nasties in the immediate weeks before it will help.
I’m no PT, nor do I have perfect abs, but I wanted to do a post to help many of the girls who have messaged me get started and pass on what worked for me. I focus solely on abs for one 30-45 minute session a week, before a yoga class; in addition to my upper and lower body workouts. Below are the key exercises in my current routine which gets me a good burn! If you try it, let me know how it goes for you!
Decline sit ups – 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Hold a dumbell if you find this too easy!
Standing oblique crunches 3 sets of 15 reps. I actually use a kettlebell for this, one hand behind the head, really think about squeezing your abs to bring yourself upright.
Hanging leg raises: 3 sets of 5. Try this with your knees tucked to start with, then extend up to kick the bar when you get stronger. Then do simple pikes at 90 degrees before the full thing. These are hard – I can only manage 3 full reps with good form!
Plank: 60 seconds. Hips forward, bottom down, shoulders above elbows, strong through the lower back. Try plank leg lifts, or superman’s (see lower image) to change it up a bit.
Swiss ball Jack knife: 3 sets of 10. These are super fun! Roll the swiss ball in with your ankles, bringing your hips as high as you can and your shoulders over your hands. You’ll need to clench your core seriously hard to maintain balance – don’t get phased if you fall off several times, took me about a month to nail a whole set of these!
Medicine ball sit ups: 3 sets of 20 reps. As you lie down, bring your arms over your head and the medicine ball to the floor behind you. Pull in your stomach and sit back up, bringing the ball back over, to parallel in front of your chest. If you’re finding it hard to sit up, put your feet further out in front of you and be careful not to lock the elbows. If you’re with a friend, sit facing each other and pass her/him the ball when you sit back up, taking it in turns.
V-sits: To failure. Start by keeping a bend in the knees. These are tough on the quads as well as the core and for some people, nearly impossible, depending on flexibility and strength. If you’re really struggling, move these to further up in the workout. Do as many as you can with good form; no half measures at the end – do fewer reps and finish strong.
Images courtesy of womenshealth.com