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Hands up for those who had never griped about your belly fat or never heard of anyone yearning to have a flat tummy.
No hands as expected. For many of us, having flat, toned abs is like the quest for the Holy Grail. It seems like a mission that just couldn’t be accomplished! Many people have tried all means and ways and even resorted to life-threatening diets in their relentless pursuit of washboard abs featured on the front covers of fashion magazines and billboards, only to be disappointed with the lack of results.
So what does it really take to get there?
Here are some really practical tips and easy-to-follow workouts for abs to help you achieve great-looking and tight abs.
Flat Abs Tip 1: Set Realistic Goals
Like it or not, for better or worse, our genes do play a role in our body shape and parts. You may have noticed both mother and daughters having heavy bottoms. It is also not uncommon to see thin people having a tummy and having difficulty getting rid of the layer of fat. Genetic predisposition doesn’t mean that we have no control at all. We just need to set realistic expectations in improving how we look and not be too hard or critical of ourselves.
Flat Abs Tip No. 2: Think 3D
Getting down on the floor and doing hundreds of crunches is not going to get anyone close to flat abs. Your abs may become very strong but unfortunately the toned abs muscles continue to lie beneath a layer of tummy fat. If working any part of the body in isolation really works, all of us would have hollow jaws by now since we work our jaw muscles by talking and chewing more than any other muscle groups. The fact is none of us have hollow jaws.
We need to visualise the abs as a 360-degree torso and train the various core muscles.
Torso or core muscles are found deep within the abs and back, attaching to the spine or pelvis. Major core muscles reside in the area of the belly and the mid and lower back, and include the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, erector spinae (sacrospinalis) especially the longissimus thoracis, and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius. These muscles are where most movements originate and help keep our body stable and balanced.
Effective workouts for abs involve working the core muscles – front, back, left, right, upper and lower.
Flat Abs Tip 3: Watch What You Eat
The truth is regardless of the grueling abs workouts you put yourself through, if you are carrying excess weight, your toned abs muscles will be hidden by a layer of fat. In other words, you can have great abs strength but you won’t be doing justice to the six packs because they won’t be visible at all. On top of regular exercise, you have to change your diet and create a calorie deficit by eating less and doing more cardiovascular/aerobic exercise to burn off excess fat not just around the belly area but overall throughout the body. Bear in mind that we can’t spot-reduce fat at specific areas of the body. When the body sheds fat, it does so proportionately throughout the body.
It is not necessary to embark on restrictive diet plans. The general rule is to keep to low-fat, high-fibre foods that are consumed in small quantities such as six small meals rather than 3 big meals throughout the day.
Flat Abs Tip 4: Exercise Equipment Are Just Nice-To-Haves
The lack or absence of exercise equipment and gym memberships is no excuse or hindrance for not achieving toned, developed abs. There is no denying that equipment such as stability balls, BOSU, resistance bands, abs rockers work the abs more readily and make your workout routine more interesting by adding variety. But even without these gadgets, we can still achieve flat abs through calisthenic exercises that require minimal or no equipment and can be performed anywhere. Calisthenics develops muscle strength and endurance based on the number of sets and reps, and the length of rest periods. Resistance is provided by our body weight rather than an external source. Crunches and sit-ups are simple yet effective calisthenic workouts that you can do anywhere, anytime.
Even in our daily activities such as standing and sitting, we can work our abs by consciously maintaining a good posture and contracting the abs muscles and drawing them inwards to the spine.
Flat Abs Tip 5: Be Patient And Persevere
Our society is so used to instant gratification that everyone expects fast results. Unfortunately some things just can’t be rushed. Many products and services promise quick fixes that end up being short-term and ineffective in the long run. The key is to plan for slow but steady progress in the journey towards weight loss and achieving toned, flat abs. Be prepared for setbacks and occasions where you let yourself go. Don’t be too hard on yourself. It is simple to get back on track and continue to move forward. Your efforts will eventually pay off if you persevere.
Flat Abs Tip 6: Improve Your Posture
Not only is poor posture unsightly but it also causes aches and pain. Just by maintaining a good standing and sitting posture would create the illusion of looking slimmer. Stop slouching and having your ears in front of your chest. Imagine that your head is hanging from a string and align your ears with your shoulders. Pull back your shoulders, lift your chest up, draw your navel to your lower back and distribute your weight evenly on your balls and heels.
An added benefit of maintaining good posture is improvement to your breathing and respiratory system.
Easy Workouts for Abs
Here are 5 easy workouts for abs that you can perform anywhere, without the need for special gym equipment.
Start position: Lie on your back with knees bent at 45-degree angle, hands behind your ears and elbows facing outwards.
Lift your upper torso such that your shoulder blades are off the ground. Tilt your pelvis so that your lower back is pressed against the floor and there is no gap between your lower back and the floor. Lead with your chest, not the head. Return to start position.
You may make exercise more challenging by doing the following variations:
1. Bring knees towards chest.
2. Extend legs skywards in the air.
3. Place arms (from easy to most difficult) by the sides, across chest, hands behind head or hands stretched above head
Curl-ups / Sit-ups
Start position: Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Your heels should be about 10 inches away from your buttocks and anchored down (with the help of someone holding them down or sandwiched between two bars). Cross your hands and arms over your chest.
Curl your torso up and touch your upper thighs with your elbows. Breathe out as you curl upwards. Lower your torso until your shoulder blades just lightly touch the ground. Breathe in as you lie down.
Start position: Get on your hands and knees in a push-up. You may balance on hands (or elbows) and toes (or knees). Align your wrists under your shoulders. Maintain a straight back and keep abs and glutes tight so that your lower back does not sink.
Hold the position and breathe out for 10 seconds. While exhaling, tighten the abs and draw the navel to the lower back.
Lying Leg Raises
Start position: Lie supine with your hands palms-down and tucked under your glutes to cradle your pelvis during the movement. Raise your legs off the floor until vertical and slightly bent at the knees.
Thrust your legs upward as though reaching for the ceiling. Lower your legs until your lower back is back on the floor and then lower your feet such that they are almost touching but not touching the floor. Keeping your feet off the floor maintains tension and works your abs by keeping the muscles tight and contracted.
Start position: Stand with your legs slightly apart, holding a stick across the back of your shoulders, with your hands lightly gripping the stick on both ends.
Rotate the upper body from side to side, keeping the pelvis fixed. To increase the intensity, you may round your back slightly. You can also perform this exercise while seated which helps to fix the pelvis and focus your efforts on the abdominal core. For best results, this exercise should be executed with sets lasting several minutes.
The journey to flat abs begins with the very 1st crunch! So what are you waiting for??!!