Q: What is the best way to get perfect
A: We believe the number one way can be found
in your weight training and nutrition. You've also got to be
performing the proper exercises and performing the proper exercises
efficiently. In other words, a thousand sit-ups a night won't
cut it. Train your abs smart! They, too, are muscles and therefore
need proper nutrition (protein, carbs and natural fat in every
meal), proper training (leg raises and my personal favorite,
Swiss ball crunches) and proper cardio conditioning (at least
20 minutes of cardio training in your target heart range, which
is 220 minus your age then multiply by 75 percent of your maximum
heart rate. We only train our abs twice a week. It is not recommended
that you train your abs more than three times a week. We find
that anything more is overtraining. All these components combined
are the best tips for great abs.
Q: Can I do sit-ups alone to reduce my
gut and build tight, ripped abs?
A: First of all there is no such thing as “spot
reduction.” Doing thousand of sit-ups will give you the tight
abdominal muscles, but will do nothing to get rid of the fat
on your midsection. Thigh adductor and abductor movements will
give your thigh muscles more firmness, but they will do nothing
to rid the area of what is commonly called cellulite. The only
thing that will rid the body of fat (regardless of where it
is located) is a carefully orchestrated reduction in your daily
energy intake; in other words, you have to burn more calories
than you ingest.
Lower Ab Exercises
Lying Leg Raises
Lie on your back with your hands, palms down under your buttocks.
Raise your legs about 30cm (12") off the floor and hold them there.
Now trying to use just your lower abs, raise your legs by another
15cm (6"). Do this by tilting the pelvis instead of lifting the
legs with the psoas. Make sure your knees are slightly bent. If
you're big or have long legs or both, you should probably avoid
this exercise. For people with legs that are too heavy for their
lower abs strength, this exercise pulls the lower back into an
exaggerated arch which is bad (and painful). For reasons why it's
bad, see Question 5. If you have this problem you can either try
bending your knees slightly and making sure you keep your lower
back fairly flat, or just try another exercise.
This exercise can be done on the ground or on an incline situp
board. All you need is something behind your head to hold. If
you use the incline board, use it with your feet lower than your
head. Lying on your back, hold a weight or a chair leg (if lying
on the floor) or the foot bar (if using the situp board). Keep
the knees slightly bent. Pull your pelvis and legs up so that
your knees are above your chest and then return to beginning position.
This exercise is very similar to a hanging knee raise, but a little
Vertical Lying Leg Thrusts
Initial position: Lie on your back. Put your fists under your
buttocks to form a cradle. Raise your legs in the air 20-30cm
(10-12") off the ground, knees slightly bent. If you feel any
strain on your lower back, bend your knees a little more. Raise
your head and shoulders off the ground slightly if you can to
help keep the abs stressed. The exercise itself has four phases:
Raise your legs until your feet are above your pelvis; focus on
contracting the abs. Thrust your heels to the ceiling, breathe
out, keep contracting the abs raising the pelvis out of the cradle
of your fists. Lower out of the thrust back to your fists, leaving
your feet above your pelvis. Lower your legs back to the initial
position. Legendary Abs II recommends these as safer than Lying
Hanging Knee Raises
You need a chin-up bar or something you can hang from for this.
Grab the bar with both hands with a grip a bit wider than your
shoulders, cross your ankles and bring your knees up to your chest
(or as close as you can get). Your pelvis should rock slightly
forward. Pause at the top of the movement for a second and then
slowly lower your knees by relaxing your abs. Don't lower your
legs all the way. Repeat the movement using just your abs to raise
your knees. Make sure that you don't start swinging. You want
your abs to do the work, not momentum. It's important that you
don't move your legs too far or your psoas muscle will be doing
a lot of work and possibly causing back problems as in a situp.
Make sure your pelvis moves, your lower back stays neutral or
slightly rounded, not arched, and that your abs are doing the
work, not your hips.
Hanging Leg Raises
Just like knee raises except you keep your legs straight. This
requires good hamstring and lower back flexibility, see the Stretching
FAQ for details. Although Legendary Abs recommends these, The
American Council on Exercise's Aerobics Instructor book warns
that they have the same back problems as conventional situps.
This makes sense since, like situps, the legs are kept straight
and the hips move. The Aerobics and Fitness Association of America
(AFAA) also regards hanging leg raises as dangerous. For safety
you should probably stick to leg thrusts and knee raises. If you
do do hanging leg raises, make sure your lower back stays neutral
or rounded. There is an isometric variant done by gymnasts called
the "L-Support", which basically consists of taking the leg raise
position with the legs held straight at a level just above the
hips. The position is held for 10 seconds. When you can complete
this easily, try a higher position. The same cautions about back
position still hold.
Upper Ab Exercises
Lying on your back, put your knees up in the air so that your
thighs are at a right angle to your torso, with your knees bent.
If you like you can rest your feet on something, like a chair.
Put your hands either behind your head or gently touching the
sides of your head. Now, slowly raise your shoulders off the ground
and try to touch your breastbone to your pelvis, breathing out
as you go. If you succeed in touching your breastbone to your
pelvis, see a doctor immediately. Although the actual movement
will be very small (your upper torso should move through less
than 30 degrees) you should try to go as high as possible. Only
your spine should bend, your hips should not move. If the hips
move, you are exercising the psoas. Do these fairly slowly to
avoid using momentum to help. You can increase the difficulty
of the exercise by extending your hands out behind your head instead
of keeping them at the side. Make sure you don't jerk your hands
forward to help with the crunch, keep them still.
Same as an ab crunch except that you raise your shoulder up, instead
of pulling them toward your pelvis. You can do these quickly,
in fact it's hard to do them any other way.
Like ab crunches, take the lying, bent-knee position, but this
time crunch diagonally so that you try to touch each shoulder
to the opposite hip alternately. At the top position, one shoulder
and one hip should be off the ground.
Drape a towel or rope around the bar of a pulldown machine so
that you pull the weight using it instead of the bar. Kneel facing
the machine and grab hold of the towel and put your hands against
your forehead. Kneel far enough away from the machine so that
the cable comes down at a slight angle. The exercise is the same
movement as an ab crunch, but using the weight instead of gravity.
The emphasis is still on crunching the abs, pulling the sternum
(breastbone) towards the pelvis and making sure you exhale all
your air at each contraction.
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