As we pour over pics of the A-listers flashing their taut tummies on holiday and on the red carpet (Gigi, Kendall we're looking at you!), we can't help but wish they would magically appear on our bods too. But the good news is toned abs aren't actually a million workouts away - it's all about the technique. Hurrah! Read on to find out how.
The Science Bit
The abdominals consist of 4 pairs of muscles: the internal and external obliques, the transversus abdominis and the rectus abdominis. The obliques and the rectus abdominis link the trunk to the lower body, and are important for posture - they support the head, shoulders and arms. They're the muscles you work on in crunches and sit-ups. The transversus abdominis, on the other hand, is the muscle to work on if you want a six-pack. Noted! The transversus abdominis runs horizontally around your abdomen and abdominal organs.
We grilled PT and founder of Body in 8 (the world's first 8-week virtual training programme), Callum Melly for his top tips on how to tone your abs for maximum results. He said: "The truth is, everyone has a six pack, but more often than not it's covered by a layer of stubborn body-fat that is accumulated as a result of a regular calorie intake." Eek *puts down doughnut*.
"A common misconception is that you can target fat loss by exercising a certain area; however, in reality you aren't going to crunch yourself to a six-pack. You want to follow a structured & regular resistance based exercise programme that will work every muscle group within your body over the period of a week. This will create a continuous calorie after burn effect that when combined with a nutrient dense & balanced diet lead to targeted fat loss."
So what does Callum recommend as the best workout?
"I like to combine my LISS cardio with a HIIT sprint workout every 48 hours, this 48 hour rest period between HIIT workouts is essential for recovery & optimal fat loss. I like to do 10 rounds of 20 second maximal effort sprints, followed by 60 seconds recovery - if you need longer to recover, then you can rest up to 1 minute 40 seconds to catch your breathe & let your heart rate come back down.
The reason HIIT training is so effective because it promotes EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption) & can burn calories for up to 48 hours after exercising, whereas LISS cardio is only effective for burning calories during the exercise itself; this is why a combination of the two is beneficial.
I also recommend LISS & HIIT cardio to increase the rate of fat loss. LISS cardio (low intensity steady state) is a great way to burn stored body-fat as an energy source & it can be done anytime, anywhere by anyone."
Here's Callum's Easy Exercises:
3 x 15 (each leg) Deadbugs
1. Lay flat on your back with your hands at your side.
2. Bring your knees up to 90 degrees.
3. Keeping your core engaged and shoulder-blades squeezed back into the ground, fully extend one leg at a time under control and tap your heel on the floor, before returning to the starting position.
3 x 15 (each side) Russian Twists
1. Sit with your feet either flat on the floor or raised for a more advanced movement.
2. Keep your core engaged and rotate left and right in a controlled fashioned tapping the floor on each side.
3 x 15 (each side) Plank Knee to Elbows
1. Take the press up plank position with your hands positioned beneath your shoulders and core engaged.
2. Rotate your right knee to your left elbow up underneath your body and then fully extend back to plank position.
3. Alternate between each leg.
3 x 15 V Sit-Ups
1. Lay flat on your back with your arms stretched out behind your head.
2. Engage your core and raise your legs as you crunch up to touch your toes.
3. Lower yourself back down in a controlled fashion back to your starting position.
3 x 15 Crunch Reach Through
1. Lay flat on your back, knees bent and feet shoulder width apart.
2. Engage your core and keep your shoulder blades squeeze back (retracted).
3. Crunch up and reach through between your thighs before lowering yourself back down in a controlled fashion back to your starting position.
3 x 15 (each side) Alternating Bicycle Crunch
1. Lay flat on your back, knees bent and hand to the side of your head.
2. Engage your core and keep your shoulder blades squeezed back (retracted).
3. Crunch up and tuck your right knee to your left elbow before lowering yourself back down in a controlled fashion back to your starting position.
4. Repeat for both sides.
The abdominals are linked to the back, so if you don’t perform these exercises correctly it can cause pain in the lumbar spine. Ouch! To get a flat stomach, you need to work your muscles lengthways, not crush them. Note the following basic rules:
- Pull in your stomach before and during the exercise, and don’t let go until you’ve finished.
- Never lock your legs under a bed, chair or ab trainer.
- Never exercise with your legs straight if there is a wide angle between your trunk and legs. Cycle or scissor kick with your legs.
- Place your hands on your temples or cross them over your chest. Never clasp your hands behind your head: this creates tension in the cervical spine next to the skull.
- Don’t hold your breath: exhale gently through your mouth as you lift and raise your chest, and breathe in to lower.
Daily Habits To Help Tone Your Abs
Breathe into your stomach
Abdominal breathing works your abs in exactly the same way as exercises. Do it anywhere (while you’re walking, waiting for the bus, in between meetings…). Standing up straight with your feet flat on the ground, your knees slightly flexed, your buttocks clenched and your shoulders back, lift your head and look straight in front of you. Breathe in slowly through your nose, filling your stomach, then breathe out through your mouth, pulling your stomach in without rounding your back.
Pull your stomach in
Your abdominals help you hold your body straight and are used in all your movements! So if you’re reaching to grab something, first hold your stomach in and then move your legs to reach it. When getting up, pull your stomach in and then push hard with your legs to lift yourself up, without leaning forward.
Hold yourself straight
To stop your abs from losing tone, always hold your shoulders back and keep yourself as straight as possible, with your eyes straight ahead. Good posture helps the toning process.
Find out more about Callum Melly's Body In 8 programme here: www.bodyin8.co.uk
Let us know how you get on @SofeminineUK!
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