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|The Truth About Your Abs|
|Page 3: Making Your Abdominal Workouts Work|
Get the most out of your abdominal workouts by:
(Article continued below.)
- Using proper form
When you crunch are your elbows facing up and are you pulling on your neck? If you're using a
captain's chair, are you lifting straight legs that only come partway up? If you're on the floor doing
leg raises, are you letting your back arch as your legs come down? These are all cardinal sins of
abdominal workouts - do them and the result will be neck pain, strong hip flexors (but not abs) and a
sore back. Really learn how to do the exercises you choose for your workout. Take the crunch for
example - your hands should be lightly supporting the back of your head and your elbows nearly
horizontal with the floor; you should lift up, as opposed to curl up. You should feel your abdominals
contracting. In fact, that's a good rule of thumb for most abdominal exercises - if you don't feel
those muscles working, they probably aren't. Be aware of your back, always. If you feel it straining,
either you are doing the exercise wrong or that particular exercise is not for you. Regardless, form
is all. Learn the proper technique for any exercise you choose to do. Ideally, have a trainer show you.
If you can't afford a trainer, read up on the moves and be very conscious of how your body is feeling.
- Skip the contraptions
They're worthless. Nothing you see on a television commercial or in the back of a fitness magazine
is going to tone your abs any better than you can do on your own. Ignore the lofty claims, the "research
studies," the firm bodies in the ads (they're hired models, anyway). Every one of these devices is worthless.
If you buy them, you will probably use them sporadically for a week or so, get less of a workout than
if you just used regular, old exercises and then shove them off into the closet where they'll collect
dust until your next garage sale. So don't bother. There are, literally, hundreds of abdominal exercises
that need no equipment whatsoever. That's enough to create varied routines and keep your abs challenged
for the rest of your life - and for free.
- Try Pilates
Yes, Virginia, there is a no-crunch ab workout and it's called Pilates.
While it has become a fashionable workout that seemingly every Hollywood celebrity does religiously,
it deserves to be much more than just the fitness flavor of the month. Invented after World War I by
Joseph H. Pilates, a German nurse, dancers had adopted this form of exercise for many years before it
became known to the public. Pilates - both the form that uses machines and the matwork - focuses on
the back, abdominal and gluteus (buttock) muscles. Precision is all-important with these exercises,
and the mind-body connection is important. Pilates will give you a lean, toned physique and a very s
trong core. If you hate crunches - and the gym in general - Pilates is worth checking out.
- Work Those Back Muscles
A good workout is all about balance, and that means working opposing muscle groups. If you do
nothing but work your abdominal muscles and they grow strong at the expense of your back, this
imbalance can lead to injury or, at the very least, back pain. Remember to do a few simple back exercises
as part of your ab workout to keep all your core muscles strong. If you suffer from any back problems,
ask your doctor to recommend safe exercises for you. And this is probably as good a place as any to
mention that upper and lower abdominal muscles don't exist - the rectus abdominis (which creates the
six-pack) is one long muscle - work one part of it and you're working the whole thing. The reason the
lower doesn't show as well is because that's a major fat storage area. So just concern yourself with
balancing muscle groups, and don't try to divvy up upper and lower ab exercises - they don't work
- Be aware of your abs throughout the day
Hold your abs in throughout the day as you move around - it offers a number of benefits. It supports
your lower back and improves your posture. It's a mild ab toner all on its own (it's no replacement
for a workout, though!). And it gives you a better profile.
Six-pack or no, here's to strong, healthy abs!
Back to Start >> Getting Real About Abs >> Page 1, 2, 3
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