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The Truth About Your Abs
Page 2: A Firm Foundation Forms Solid Abs

Diet is the one thing almost everybody neglects when it comes to training their abs, and it is really the most crucial. Strength training determines the power and size of your muscles, but your diet determines whether they will be seen or not. If you eat a lot of fat and sugar-laden snacks, or consume more calories than you burn, you are going to carry around extra weight. That's just a fact. And if you're addicted to chips or other salty items, you are going to retain water, so you'll be bloated along with being overweight. If you want your abs - or any of your other well-trained muscles - to show, eat a healthy diet consisting of whole foods, including lots of vegetables and lean protein. Keep the sugary and salty treats to a minimum (but don't cut them out altogether if you love them - your body may thank you but your mind will definitely rebel). Keep your fat intake below 30 percent, with only 10 percent saturated fats. We're not talking about anything radical here - just your average, everyday sensible diet, consumed in moderation.

(Article continued below.)

Also make sure you are getting adequate cardio exercise. Building strength is one thing, burning calories and fat is another. Again, you don't need to go overboard - 30 minutes three times a week is adequate for health purposes. If you want to drop a few pounds, increase that to maybe 45 minutes or an hour four to five times a week. But don't do more than this unless you are training for a specific activity such as a marathon. You can overtrain with cardio fairly easily and open yourself up for injury or burnout. What type of cardio activity should you do? Whatever you enjoy the most. Running is good, but if you prefer riding a stationary bike, do that. If you've always wanted to try Spinning, go right ahead. Aerobic or Step classes can satisfy the dancer in you. A brisk fitness walk is also good - in fact, people are more likely to stick to walking than just about any other activity. But whatever you do, make sure it's driving your heart rate up. On a scale between one and ten, one being no effort and ten being all-out, try for a perceived exertion rate of 7 or 8 through most of your workout - it should be an effort, but not completely impossible, to carry on a conversation. And remember to practice good form here, too. Make sure your abs are pulled in and you are practicing good back alignment.

If you eat sensibly and burn off fat through adequate cardio activity, your toned abs will have the best chance of displaying themselves - and so will all the other parts of your body that you are exercising. But remember, appearance is not the most important reason to keep your abs toned (although it can be a great motivator). Your abdominal muscles are part of your core - keeping them strong offers support for your whole body. Your posture will be better and there will be less stress on your lower back. Strong abs even aid in keeping your organs in shape and will help you conserve energy. Every part of you benefits from strong abs. Now let's look at some ways to maximize your ab workouts - and no more 200-crunch sessions, okay?

Next page >> Make the Most of Your Ab Workouts >> Page 1, 2, 3

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