Has the whole world gone ab-mad? You can hardly open a fitness, health or bodybuilding magazine these days without seeing the latest ab workout, aptly demonstrated by a buff individual. Ironically
when you walk down the street you don't see too many people displaying great abs. Heck, you don't even see them in the gym! But the magazines seem to find 'em, right?
Okay, so right now your abs are not as you want them. Whaddaya gonna do about it? I can tell you now that a few leg raises and situps won't do the job. So don't make a half-hearted attempt at going for that six-pak of ripped midsection. You need to have a plan, and that plan starts with self-assessment.
Check out reality. Look carefully at your mirror image. Maybe with the right lighting you don't look too bad. Now move yourself into some not-so-good lighting and - wait for it - relax that waistline. Your 31-inch midsection has now ballooned to 38. Ugh! Time to get to work.
Understand that while exercising is important, the ultimate ab-ripping weapon is your diet. This doesn't mean you should eat less than you normally would. It does mean you have to eat the right foods (i.e. oatmeal, A egg whites, baked potato, rice, fish, chicken, fruits and vegetables), and eat smaller meals five or six times a day.
Start training slowly if you haven't been doing much in the way of ab exercise of late. I knew a guy who hadn't worked his abs in several years. One day he got the urge, locked himself in his room, and did an hour and a half nonstop of twists, bends, leg raises and crunches. The next morning he woke up bright eyed and bushy tailed ready to hop out of bed. Oops! It didn't happen. He just couldn't make it. He couldn't sit up and get out of bed. The soreness and sheer pain were just too much. Lud had to stay in bed for a week! What's the moral of the story? Take it easy at first, guys.
Can everybody get abs? The short answer is, yes! However, there are small percentages of people with a glandular condition causing obesity who in all likelihood do not stand much of a chance of getting an outstanding six-pak. But don't run to the conclusion that because you don't get a ripped waistline in a few days you, too, have a glandular problem.
Before beginning any exercise or diet regimen, especially if you are over 35, a smoker or have been inactive for a while, you are strongly advised to consult your family doctor. Ask your doctor to arrange a stress test so you know for sure you are ready to get started on the path to abdominal perfection.
The following exercises are among the best ab-building movements known to man. Select two or three to incorporate into your workouts. Train your abs two to four times a week. You may chop and change as you wish. Variety is the spice of progress.
Incline Leg Raises
Find a suitable incline bench where you can support yourself by grabbing an overhead area to prevent yourself from sliding. With knees slightly bent, raise your legs to the vertical position and lower. Repeat 12 to 25 reps.
Lie face up on the floor. Simultaneously raise your legs and upper body as illustrated. Some men find this exercise to be very difficult. Women, because of their tendency to have more weight in the hip and butt area, often find this movement easier than men. Repeat 10 to 15 reps.
Reverse Crunches (lower abs)
Lie on your back on a flat bench. Hold the back of the bench or have your hands to the side. Raise and lower your permanently bent legs, starting with your feet almost touching the floor going all the way back until your lower back is lifted clear of bench surface. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps.
Knee Tucks (lower abs)
Sit on a bench as shown, holding on to the sides for balance. Raise your legs by tucking the knees into the chest. When you lower your legs they should straighten out and at the same time your body should lean back slightly to put the emphasis on the all-important lower abs. Repeat for 15 to 30 reps.
Bench Crunches (middle and upper abs)
Lie on your back on the floor, your legs draped over a flat bench as shown. Place your hands on your waist or hold the back of your head. Curl your body up so your shoulders are well clear of the floor. Repeat 10 to 25 reps.
Captain Chair Leg Raises (lower abs)
Assume the position as shown on the apparatus, with your lower back snug up against the padded support. Raise your bent legs up to a parallel to floor position. Lower and repeat without allowing the legs to swing. Concentrate the lifting effort onto the abs. Repeat 12 to 25 reps. A more advanced move would be to keep your legs straight throughout the exercise.
Hanging leg Raises (lower and middle abs)
Hang from an overhead horizontal bar as shown. Raise and lower your legs, taking care not to allow the body to swing back and forth. Legs may be bent throughout the movements. Repeat 10 to 20 reps.
Pulley Machine Crunches (upper abs)
Kneel at the foot of a pulley machine, holding the handle as indicated. From the kneel position, crouch forward until your stomach muscles are fully contracted. You must adjust your position carefully so the resistance is felt in the midsection. Repeat 15 to 20 reps.
Frog Crunches (middle and upper abs)
Lie on your back, hands behind your head. Your legs should be positioned with the knees as wide as you can get them while the feet are touching. Curl up so that the shoulders are clear off the floor. Squeeze the abs at the top of the movement. Repeat 12 to 25 reps.
Hanging Twisting Knee-Ups (lower and middle abs)
Hang from an overhead horizontal bar. Raise your knees up (legs bent) and twist to the right as shown. Lower and rise up twisting to the left. Alternate for 6 to 12 repetitions each side.
Vertical Leg Raises (lower abs)
Lie on a bench as shown with your legs in the vertical position. Endeavor to keep the legs vertical while lifting the hips off the bench. This exercise may be done with the feet resting up against a wall. This exercise is effective even if you can raise your hips only a few inches off the floor. Repeat 10 to 20 reps.
Twisting Crunches (middle and side abs)
Adopt the position shown. This exercise may be done on a bench or on the floor. Cross your left leg over your right and curl the body up twisting to your left. Do 15 to 20 reps. Next, place the right foot over the left in similar fashion and do the same number of reps, twisting to the right.
Roman Chair Situps (upper abs)
Adopt a position as shown. Sit up until you feel the tension release slightly from your midsection. Lower and repeat. Be careful not to fall back too far at the start position, especially if you have not done this exercise before, or in recent times. Repeat 10 to 25 reps.
Captain Chair Twists (lower abs)
Not every gym has a captain's chair apparatus; however, it is an excellent unit to work the lower abs. Adopt position as shown, with your back pressed firmly against the rear pad. Raise the bent legs up, alternately twisting first to the left, then to the right. Repeat for 15 to 20 reps.
Regular Crunches (middle abs)
This is obviously an exercise that can be done at home or almost anywhere you have a clean floor. Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands behind your head. Lift your shoulders off the floor and concentrate on crunching down the abdominals. Lower and repeat 15 to 25 reps.
The Bicycle (lower and middle abs)
Lie on the floor as shown. Simultaneously twist your upper body up to the right while raising the right leg, following with a twist to the left while raising the left leg. Keep this smooth action nonstop until completing 15 to 25 reps.
Slide Crunches (obliques)
This is not an easy exercise. Adopt a position as shown. Raise the torso sideways as high as you can. This may be only a matter of inches. Nevertheless the oblique muscle will be seriously brought into play with concentrated effort. You may use your straight arm to help increase the mobility; however, the lifting should predominately come from the oblique muscles at the side of the midsection. Attempt 15 to 20 reps each side.
Cable Side Pulldowns (obliques)
Hold the handle of an overhead cable machine as illustrated. Keeping your arm in a locked position move to the left. After completing 20 to 25 reps, change hands and move to the right. Do not use a heavy weight resistance in this exercise; otherwise, the oblique muscle will tend to build up in size and give the impression of a thicker waistline.