Striving for Six-Pack Abs
Flat stomach, tight abs -- we all dream about it. Here's how to get them, with step-by-step instructions and photographs.
Six-Pack Abs: Reality or Pipe Dream? continued...
"I personally think it's on the order of ridiculous," he says.
"If you're spending that much time on your abs, you're wasting time and
taking time away from other muscle groups. It's a show muscle.
"When I have clients that are obsessed with that, I work on values and
self-acceptance. People want a perfect body, they want a Lexus and they want a
3,000 square foot home. They're objectifying the body."
There are important reasons to train the midsection, however. The core
muscles of the abdominals strengthen the torso, improve posture, decrease low
back pain, and reduce risk of injury.
Abdominal training can also improve other areas of fitness. If you're a
golfer or tennis player, working with a stronger core is going to give you more
power behind your stroke or serve and reduce risk of shoulder
injury. A stronger torso, for example, will put less strain on your knees while
So let's get to it. Here are the experts' choices on the most effective
abdominal exercises. These should be performed two to three times weekly (for
beginners, two is plenty to start). Each exercise should be executed until the
point of momentary muscular failure, which should happen between 30 and 90
seconds. This is considered one set, which should be no more than 15 to 20
repetitions. Rest for 30 to 60 seconds. Concentrate on performing each exercise
slowly with good form. Work up to completing two to three sets of each
Reverse Crunch: Lie flat on the floor with a neutral spine, with
knees at a 90-degree angle, feet a few inches off the floor and legs together,
hands by your sides (behind your ears if you're more experienced). Focus on
contracting your abdominals to lift your hips up and in toward your rib case.
Exhale as you contract; inhale to return to starting position. Done correctly,
this exercise isolates the lower half of the rectus abdominis and the
Bent-Elbow Plank: This exercise works the whole trunk, particularly
the transversus abdominis. Start by lying on your belly and then lift yourself
up onto your toes and forearms (elbows in line with shoulders) while
contracting your abdominals and keeping your back neutral. Hold that position
for five seconds, then rest and repeat. Ultimately, strive to hold the pose for
90 seconds without any rest -- for one set. If you're more experienced, you can
also do this exercise on your hands and toes. (As a beginner, start on your
hands and knees with a neutral spine and simply contract the abdominals on an
exhale without moving your back.)