Let's be honest. There's isn't a soul out there who wouldn't like solid abs. It's the definition of being 'in shape'. It's what so many of us strive for when we hit the gym yet it can be just so darn hard to achieve. Well here are some hard and fast truths that may help you in your quest for that awesome washboard stomach.
1. There’s Abs under that fat ya know
First things first. Crunches can only tone the abs. Hitting 100 sit ups before bed won't give you a 6-pack. Not on it's own anyway. They cannot get rid of the fat layer that's hiding your glorious abs. The only way to lose the fat is to do some form of vigorous aerobic exercise in order to increase your bodies metabolic rate, causing your body to use up all stored forms of energy, in short, your fat. Aerobics exercises target specific areas of body fat, weight training increases the body’s overall metabolic rate, so in a way it enhances the action of aerobics.
2. Crunches Are Just One Form Of Ab Exercise
What you need to do is a series of exercises that work all the muscles in the abs from different angles. There are three so-called “Places of motion”. When you bend forward, you work the sagittal plane. Bend to the side and you target the frontal plane. Twist your torso and you hit the transverse plane. A basic crunch only work your muscles through one plane of motion – sagittal – which is why you can do them forever and only see a third of the results. Of course, don’t give upon crunches. Incorporate moves that hit the other two angles and your abs will be rippling in no time.
3. Mixing It Up Is A Must
Even if you’ve got a fantastic workout, you still need to vary your moves every few weeks. The longer you stick with an exercise programme, the more efficient your body becomes at doing it. You therefore end up using less energy and burning fewer calories, and you won’t get optimal results. Research shows muscles can adapt in as few as four to five workouts.
Keeping your muscles from getting bored doesn’t mean scrounging up an all-new routine, just mix it up a bit. For example, instead of placing your hands by your ears when you do crunches, try extending your arms in front of you. Simple, right?
Remember that first time you went to the gym and your muscles were sore the next day? That's because you worked them enough that they then go into a process of healing and ultimately getting stronger. Mix up your routine to keep things both interesting and a varied resistance for the body.
4. There Is Such A Thing As A Beer Belly
Most of us love the odd drink or two but the booze can add to the size of your tummy for one very simple reason: Alcohol is dense in calories. Every gram of alcohol contains 7 calories - the same as a gram of butter and almost twice as many as a gram of most other carbohydrates or protein.
It can be useful to know that many alcoholic brands now have ‘light’ low alcohol alternatives containing fewer calories. Some ‘light’ wines have under 80 calories in a 175ml glass compared to 159 calories in the same measure of standard, 13% wine. Switching to low calorie drinks can help to beat the beer belly.
Another way to drink fewer calories is to opt for a low calorie mixer such as a diet coke or soda. Drinking water or low calorie soft drinks between alcoholic drinks is not only a good way to reduce your calorie intake but also helps to reduce the amount of units you’re drinking.
So if you're looking to get trim save the bottle of Sauvignon Blanc in the fridge for a special (ish) occasion. Or better yet, don't drink at all.
5. You Can Age Proof Your Abs
After around the age 30, we all experiences metabolic slowdown and tend to gain weight easier than our younger, less wrinkled selves. Why? Most of us continue eating the same number of calories, but burning fewer. In men most fat lands on the belly; in women on the hips and thighs. By late 30's though, a woman experiences fluctuating levels of estrogen and progesterone change where her body stores fat – and more of it goes to her middle.
It may sound simple but the winning formula to avoid this is (drum roll please)... eat less, exercise more.
It's also worth noting that after the age of 25 we loose muscle each year unless we step up strength-training routine. The more muscle we have more calories your body needs to operate. So instead of being stored as energy that can be used another day (fat) the calories are burnt up, never to be seen again.
So don't just hit the treadmill when you walk into the gym, aim for the weights.
6. It Could Be Gas
It’s true, that poor abdominal tone and fat aren’t the only culprits behind a protruding belly. Good-for-you foods like beans, fruits and vegetables all contain complex sugars called oligosacharides that you body can’t readily digest. In many people, these sugars produce intestinal gas that can enlarge your stomach for up to 24 hours after you eat them – particularly if you’re not used to eating a lot of produce. The solution? Monitoring your diet carefully and cutting back on foods that create bloat may help prevent distention. In about a week, any bulge should vanish and the long-term health benefits will remain.
7. Stress Shows Up On Your Belly
Being stressed can actually prompt your body to store fat in your stomach. A recent university study found that of the 160 female participants, the ones who reported the highest levels of chronic stress had the biggest waistlines. Researchers suspect that excess amounts of the stress hormone cortisol promotes your body to pad your waistline, because the fat cells in this area have more receptors for cortisol than any other cells in the human body. To help keep stress levels in check, cut back on known cortisol elevators, such as smoking, drinking and lack of sleep. Exercising and meditation (try yoga) will help massively to reduce your cortisol levels.
8. Sucking It In Is Actually Smart
It looks like cheating, but holding in your belly actually works a core muscle deep in your lower back called the transverse abdominis, which can permanently improve your appearance.
This muscle acts as a natural weight belt, supporting your lower back and keeping your pelvis aligned. In effect it eliminates posture problems that may be causing you to slouch and seem paunchier than you really are. It’s also one of the few exercises you can do all day long. You can’t exactly do crunches at your desk, but you can pull your abs in anytime, anywhere. So suck it in, even if your office crush isn't looking!