Fab Abs: What Works, What Doesn't?
Gizmos and supplements promise a "six-pack" with very little effort. Can they really give you the washboard abs you've always dreamed of? WebMD asked the experts.
The Best Exercises
Ab exercises often involve Swiss balls -- oversized balls
commonly found in gyms and workout centers. "You can lie on the ball, do
your exercises. It's more functional, requires balance, so you're using more
muscles to stabilize and balance while you're doing your exercises. You're
working muscles through the full range of motion, getting stronger
Spot training -- just doing crunches -- just doesn't work,
DeGennaro tells WebMD. "If you have a little bit of a pot belly, just doing
crunches isn't going to make that go away. You have to burn calories. You can
do 500 crunches a day, but if you have a pot belly and drink beer every night,
you're not going to get washboard abs."
Diet is 85% of weight loss, so 15% of your effort should
involve fitness and strengthening, he explains "You've got to have your
diet under control, then add in all your cardio and abdominal work."
"I'm not a big 'machine person,'" says DeGennaro.
"When you're doing a machine, the same muscle fibers are working in the
same sequence every single time. You can develop 'pattern overload' -- your
body becomes accustomed to that pattern, and after awhile you're not
accomplishing anything. Your body plateaus, gets more efficient at burning the
calories. Pretty soon, you're not burning any calories."
"You've got to add variety, do a different routine, so your
body doesn't plateau," he says.
Like DeGennaro, Bookspan doesn't believe that machines, ephedra
drugs, or simple crunches are the answer to flatter abs.
A Simpler Approach
She believes in an isometric approach -- teaching people
exercises that can subtly be integrated into your normal, daily routine. All
are aimed at attaining better posture and less back pain -- along with more
attractive abs, she tells WebMD.
"Most people can't imagine using their abs while
standing," she writes. "Yet this is what will keep your back supported
and prevent pain and injury during daily activities. Use this whenever you
reach overhead -- from pulling shirts off to reaching cabinets, to washing your
hair, to lifting weights."
"Using abs correctly will firm your abs and help you burn
calories," she says. "It's a free workout you can give yourself every