Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Summer is coming....Time to work on your Abs!

No matter what your age, body type, or fitness level, I'm pretty sure one of your main workout goals
 is to improve your abs- if you are anything like me anyway lol. And why not? A flat midsection, with 
or without a visible six-pack, is the ultimate symbol of being fit and lean. (And yes, it looks great at 
the beach.) But it's not just a matter of vanity—a strong core helps stabilize your entire body. That's
 why every Beachbody® fitness program includes a variety of ab-tightening exercises.

Still, whatever you're doing to get fit, there's always room for improvement where the core is concerned
Here are five tips to help you to get those great abs faster than ever:
Work your entire core. Your "core," the trunk muscles of your abdomen, lower back, and pelvis,
 is a whole system that supports your body as 
you stand up straight, perform everyday activities
and work out. And it's important to strengthen
all these muscles, not just the rectus abdominals
(the main "six-pack" muscles targeted by crunches)
At the very least, you should strengthen the spinal erectors of the lower back to balance out your abs, which will help your posture and reduce the risk 
of back pain. Think of total-core training as 
increasing your functional fitness—meaning you 
won't just look better, but you'll also be able to
 do things better too. (P90X's Core Synergistics 
Workout and ChaLEAN Extreme's Extreme Abs 
workout are great examples of complete core
 workouts.)
Take it slow. When you're doing crunches or other ab-focused exercises, it's easy to speed up and
 lose proper form, especially when you start to get tired. Either you let momentum carry you through 
much of the movement or you pull yourself up with your back and shoulders. But you'll get the most
 benefit (and the least chance of injury) from your workout if you concentrate on measured, controlled movements. And keep the abdominals contracted the entire time. After all, they're the ones that
 should be doing the work. (Doing some Pilates-style movements—like ChaLEAN Extreme's Pilates 
Roll-Up, in which you lift your upper body to a count of 8—is a good way to train yourself to slow it
 down.) When you can't do any more reps with the proper form, it's time to stop.

Don't overdo it. If you really want great abs, you may be tempted to grind out crunch after crunch 
to the exclusion of other exercises, or to do more ab-centered workouts than your fitness program 
ecommends. But directly working your abs too often can do more harm than good. Like any muscle, the abdominals need to recover between workouts. If you find you aren't improving the number of reps
 you can do or the amount of weight you can handle, that's a sign that you're overtraining, and you
 need to cut back.

Don't neglect the rest of your body. The more you work your entire body, the better it is for
 your abs. In fact, just about any full-body or compound movement, from push-ups to squats to 
deadlifts, takes a lot of ab effort. (That's the whole point behind programs like Hip Hop Abs® and 
the upcoming RevAbs™, which give you great core results without focusing on crunches.) What's
 more, working your full body will burn many more calories and raise your metabolism, which is
 important, because you also need to . . .

Lose the fat to make your abs flat. No matter how much you strengthen your abdominal muscles,
 the only way to get a flat midsection is to lose body fat. That's going to require a diet that's high in 
protein and fiber, low in simple carbs, and full of bulky, nutrient-dense foods that keep you full with 
fewer calories—and of course, plenty of water. If you're on a meal plan associated with a particular 
workout, make sure you're really following it and not fudging here and there. (Keeping a food diary can
 help.) When you combine an effective full-body workout with a proper diet, getting the flat abs you've
 always wanted is just a matter of time.

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