Due to being a huge fan of the beach TV show Baywatch as a teen, I chose abdominals as my first favorite muscle to train. I find this ironic since it was probably one of the hardest ones for many to exercise and develop. This is the one muscle group people both dreaded and wished for. Due to some discouraging aspects of this muscle group, such as the unique and almost nauseating pain of an abdominal burn during exercise and the mental doubt of ever having them, I’ve seen so many people make this the last exercise during a gym visit or skip it entirely.
I’m here to help you beat any potential discouragement that may have been keeping you from a nice 6 (or even four-pack) by sharing why I value this muscle group and how I’ve built mine through physical habit and a kick-butt mental attitude. Now let’s get you motivated and moving with some core responsibility.
BENEFITS OF A STRONG CORE
Knowing the benefits of having abdominal muscles (aside from a beach body look) is a great way to kick-start your motivation regarding an abdominal routine.
A few things to consider as important when asking yourself why you should take training abs seriously are:
• They are the foundation of core strength, assisting with stabilization and balance muscle.
• They are associated with back health and injury prevention (strong abs are key when baring heavy weight that requires stabilization such as squats, walking lunges, and more).
• They help with spinal and postural health (healthy abs, combined with a healthy back can assist can prevent posture issues and future pain as we age).
• They are a place to wash and lather your clothes when the washing machine breaks (just kidding J).
GOOD FORM IS EVERYTHING!
Tips for the perfect crunch are:
When you crunch, ensure that you are sticking to the most effective form by knowing where the muscle begins and ends focusing on contraction of the entire muscle, not just a portion (which can typically be the upper abs where the rib cage is). I always tell people to envision their core curling in like a cheese curl at both ends to produce full contraction and extension (including both lower to upper abs)!
• It’s an odd request but they get it and it’s a game-changer regarding an effective abdominal crunch.
• Avoid pulling on your neck to lift your upper body upward during a crunch. The more you pull on your neck with your arms the less your abs are being worked.
• Utilize slow controlled movement. The faster you go, and the more momentum you use, the less tension is being held. It’s not about getting it over with; it’s about making each rep count. Feeling the burn is a good thing! I’d suggest a slow release on the way back from the crunch and a nice one-second hold at the peak of the contraction.
• Focus on a full range of motion, not just partial range.
• If and when using an abdominal ball place your lower back at the 45-degree angle point. Also start with your feet wide apart for better balance, narrow your stance for more of a challenge.
MY FAVORITE AB EXERCISES
1.) Abdominal crunch on full ab ball or bosu ball
2.) Leg lifts on the ground
1.) Abdominal crunch with light dumbbells or weighted plate at the chest
2.) Supine leg lifts with ankle weights
3.) Hanging leg raises
1.) Reverse Crunches
2.) Weighted abdominal machine crunches
ADDITIONAL KEY FACTORS
• Cardio and Diet Strategy This is key if you are aiming for the aesthetics of abs. I’ve always said, “You can do abs until the cows come home, but if you have a layer of fat covering your mid-section you will never see your muscular development.”
• Priority and Consistency In 2001, I worked as an employee at the YMCA in New Bedford, MA where someone didn’t know my name, they called me “ab girl.” I would train them in the very beginning of my weight training days or in between sets, super setting. I would also train them every other day (giving a 48-hour window for recovery and rest). Because I was very serious about gaining results in the ab department, making abdominal exercises a priority and ensuring consistency was a must.
With strategy, consistency, and a mindset of remembering the healthy benefits of a strong core as motivation, I believe you can accomplish your best abs yet in the upcoming year. But remember showing up and committing is only half the battle. Proper rest and diet to shed fat, recover muscle breakdown, and development is needed along with proper form! If your form is off, it’s like wasting the gas in your car! You are burning fuel and not getting to where you want to be in time! Let’s make it “hurt so good” and get to Absville my friend! Happy crunching!
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Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.