I often get asked, what is the best way to “get abs”? Most people are looking for a magic exercise at the end of a workout that would make the abdominal muscles suddenly appear.
Everybody has abs. If we didn’t, basic functions such as standing, walking, sitting and turning would be impossible. Whether or not you can see your abdominal muscles is another story.
The goal of getting great abs usually differs between men and women. Whether you are a male and are striving for a chiseled six pack, or a woman who wants a toned, bulge-free midriff, follow these three steps.
Step 1: Get motivated!
This first step is by far the most important step for getting flat abs. Once you are motivated, executing a diet and exercise plan is a piece of cake (low fat, high fibre cake of course!)
To get motivated, figure out why you want those flat abs. Imagine how great you will feel when you can comfortably wear a bikini, zip up your skinny jeans or flex and see a six pack. Maybe your doctor has advised you to lose weight around the midsection to lower your risk of health problems.
In the journey to a trim waistline, there will be barriers to overcome. For example, a friend might try to get you to stray from your diet at a party, or you might not feel like exercising one week. The stronger your ‘why’ is, the more committed you will be to your goal and the easier it will be to overcome the barriers.
Step 2: Eat to fuel the muscle and shed the fat.
As I mentioned, everybody has abs. What differs between a soft tummy and tight, sexy abs is the body fat hiding the muscle. No amount of sit ups, crunches, leg raises or rides on the ab trainer will do the trick. Shedding abdominal fat requires proper nutrition.
To get into the details of a proper eating plan would require an entire book, but here are some general guidelines:
• Clean up your diet: Get rid of the processed foods, sugar, unhealthy fats and ‘white’ foods (white rice, white pasta, white flour).
• Eat regularly. Eat four to six times per day. This means you eat breakfast too!
• Eat protein and fibre at each meal and snack.
• Include healthy fats in your diet (think fatty fish, avocado, heart healthy oils, nuts and seeds).
• Stick to proper portion sizes for your goals and activity level.
Step 3: Get fit!
Combined with a proper eating plan, a full body workout routine is essential to shed body fat and achieve a lean, sculpted midsection. Cardiovascular exercise (such as power walking, running, cycling, or stair climbing) will burn extra calories, contributing to fat loss.
Full body strength exercises, such as squats, lunges, push-ups and chin ups will also work to burn extra calories and boost your metabolic rate (also important for fat loss).
Finally – and possibly the least important of all – include exercises that target the midsection. Just like any other muscle group, strengthen the abdominals by doing 8-15 reps of an exercise. Doing hundreds of abdominal curls or crunches will only lead to boredom and poor posture. Bicycle crunches, cable rotations, planks and hanging leg raises will do the trick.
While there is no magic exercise to achieve that sexy midriff, cleaning up your diet, regular exercise, and the motivation to stick to the program, will get great looking abdominal muscles.
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and personal trainer, specializing in weight loss, group fitness, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, which offers Boot Camps, mom and baby fitness classes and personal training in the Chilliwack area. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.