Abdominal Exercises Alone Are Not Enough

Learn why you need more than just some abdominal exercises to achieve great abs.

abdominal exercisesLearn why it takes more than just abdominal exercises to get great abs.

You might THINK you want to learn lower abdominal exercises, but if you're like most people, what you REALLY want is simply to achieve a flat, sexy stomach. The first thing you need to know in your quest for gorgeous abs is that there are four components to achieving an enviable midsection. Many people mistakenly believe that, if only they could find that "magic" lower abdominal exercise, they could get rid of their stomach. Unfortunately, flattening and toning the tummy area is a bit more complicated than that - but it doesn't have to be hard, or mysterious. There are four things you need to focus on:

1. Reduce Overall Bodyfat Levels. Reducing bodyfat levels is the first order of the day if you'd like better abs.

To reduce bodyfat, you need to:

  • Perform a full-body resistance training routine 2-3 times per week, including a variety of abdominal exercises.
  • Perform cardiovascular exercise 3-5 times per week.
  • Include sufficient protein, essential fatty acids (EFAs), and the correct amount of total calories in your diet to facilitate weight loss.

2. Reduce or Eliminate Foods that Cause Bloating or Indigestion. Sugar alcohols, sodium, and high fructose corn syrup are primary causes for bloating and a poofy lower stomach. Diet and sugar-free foods often contain sugar alcohols. Sugar-free chewing gum is another common source. I've seen people lose 2 inches off their stomach simply from avoiding sugar alcohols! The same can be said for carbonated beverages in general. The extra air in the drinks can contribute to extra air in the stomach, which can lead to an enlarged abdomen. Sodium and high fructose corn syrup are found in many processed foods. Most people can tolerate wheat, dairy, and sodium in moderation. Food allergies are another common culprit for bloating and indigestion, which can make your lower abdominal region "pouch" out. If this is happening to you, no amount of lower abdominal exercises will make much difference in the appearance of your stomach: you need to address the bloating. The following eight foods account for about 90% of all food allergies: milk, egg, peanuts, tree nuts (walnuts, cashews, etc.), fish, shellfish, soy, wheat.

3. Tone the Abs with a Variety of Abdominal Exercises. You need to strengthen the abdominal muscles to help flatten and firm your stomach. Performing 2-6 sets of exercises for your abs three times per week should do the trick. You should perform moves that initiate from the upper, side, and lower abdominals. Also include some movements that require you to hold your abs tight for a period of time; this works the transverse abdominus, the muscle that act like a “girdle” on your stomach, holding it in for you.

4. Improve Posture by Being Aware and Full-body Strengthening. Most Americans have poor posture. If you improve your posture, it makes you look taller, slimmer, and younger. It also helps flatten your stomach. When you slouch, your shoulders and lower abdominals lean forward, and your pelvis tips backward, making the natural curve in your spine more pronounced. Part of improving posture is simply being aware of it. You need to think about how you are holding your body all the time when you are sitting and standing, not just while you are exercising. Try to maintain a slight tension in your lower abdominals when you stand. This will become second nature over time. Following a balanced resistance-training routine helps improve posture. Be sure to include a bent-over row, and perhaps a rear-delt fly in your weight training routine. Both of those exercises help pull the shoulders back, which deadlifts are also extremely important for posture. These exercises all exercise the back, which is an area that needs work for most people. Why? If the muscles in the front of your body (such as your chest) are stronger than the muscles in the back of the body, you will be inclined to slouch. Almost everybody performs more movements in their daily routine with the arms in front of the body (think: washing dishes, typing, driving, carrying things). This leads to an imbalance in the muscles that can be corrected with a properly designed exercise program. If you have a tendency to slouch, you should perform more exercises for the back of your body until your back is as strong as the muscles in the front of the body. 

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