Written with love, by Kim Riegel
Amongst all the craziness of planning a wedding is the desire to feel and look your best on your wedding day. I am going to give you the "skinny" on what it realistically takes to get flat, fABulous abs!
Bad news first ladies...
There is a little bit of a genetic component that can influence how to get flat abs. For the most part, women usually fit into one of two body types:
1. Some women are apple-shaped, which means they carry more weight in their upper body, chest, and stomach area.
2. Other women are pear-shaped, which means they are smaller in the upper body and waist area, with more weight in the hips, buttocks, and thighs.
A pear shape is usually more genetically predisposed to a flatter stomach. Jennifer Lopez is a good example of a pear shape, with a flat stomach and a little more weight in the hips and butt area.
Now the good news...
That does not mean that you cannot get flat abs if you are more like an apple shape. It just means that you may have to work harder with all of the other components that are required to get flat abs. So let's talk about what those are!
Flat abs will not appear just by doing abdominal exercises.
I want to clear up a few items...you have muscle underneath with fat and skin on top. While you may work very hard to strengthen the muscles, if there is a thick layer of fat on top of the muscle, the abs will never be seen. This transitions us into the first component which is DIET.
Getting flat abs requires eating a good, healthy diet. If you don't shed the skin and fat above the muscle, they will never be seen. It can be done! I had a baby and was also on bed rest during my pregnancy. Yet with a healthy diet, overall strength training exercises and cardiovascular training combined with the right abdominal exercises, was able to get my flat, toned stomach back and you can too!
Which leads me to component number 2...
Strength Training + Cardio
Spot reducing unfortunately does not exist, so doing 1,000 crunches alone is not the answer. You should incorporate a program with overall total body strengthening along with cardio to help burn fat quicker and increase your lean muscle. This will, in turn, speed up your metabolism. When you begin to lose weight, the muscle on your body will begin to be seen.
Finally, the abdominal exercises themselves. Without getting too technical, the core is made up of different types of muscles. Some pelvic muscles are deep and help with pelvic alignment, the spine, and balance, while superficial muscles are the ones that can be seen and are on top. The ones that run up and down are the rectus abdominals, and the ones that run at an angle are your obliques.
Here are a few examples of abdominal exercises that you can do to strengthen and flatten those abs!
This exercise is good for the deep core muscles. You can either start on your elbows and toes, or on your hands and toes in a push-up position. Keep your body straight like a board and pull your belly button in toward your spine.
Try to hold each repetition anywhere between 30 and 60 seconds. Try shifting your body weight so your core is holding you up more than your upper body. Your abs should be shaking.
A way to step up the intensity is to alternate one leg up in the air for 10 seconds and then switch to the other leg.
2. Plank on a stability ball
This is an advanced step up from a plank on the floor. Get an appropriate size stability ball. Roll out face down on the ball to a push-up position with the ball underneath your shins. Keep your body straight like a board with your belly button drawn in toward your spine. Adding the ball now gives you an instability factor which, in turn, causes your abs to work harder to stay in position and hold the ball still.
You can even advance this one to a leg up, hip extension with one leg on the ball for 10 seconds, alternating legs.
3. Oblique twists with a medicine ball
Grab a medicine ball anywhere from 4 to 8 pounds. If you do not have one, anything that is small and has some weight will do. Get a mat or something with cushion and sit on the floor with both legs out in front of you with your knees slightly bent. Clutch the medicine ball to your chest and lean back just a little bit. Contract your abs to hold you in place and begin rotating and tapping the medicine ball from side to side on the ground, close to your body. This exercise should fatigue your abs rather quickly and does not need a lot of repetition.
4. Long Lever Crunches
These are crunches with your legs extended out in front and knees slightly bent with your toes pointing to the ceiling. Place your hands behind your head and begin to curl up and down.
I like these crunches because they change your center of gravity while doing the abdominal crunch. When your knees are very bent, you may tend to feel it up higher in your abs. But when you extend your knees out in front of you, your center of gravity changes to a lower position, causing you to feel your abs working harder and more in the lower abdominal region.
While there is no magic number of how many reps and sets to do, do as many as you can to feel the burn in multiple sets.
Happy Ab Training!