Truth About Abs
DO I GET RID OF THIS?" Men and women
of every shape and size ask me this question
all the time, pointing to their bellies with
puzzled faces. It's the million-dollar question,
and many more companies are making money than
are offering answers.
don't need to spend a dime to tighten
and tone those abdominals, though. You
only need to understand a few things about
the human body.
television ads are now pitching devices
that supposedly stimulate muscles so that
they contract over and over without exercise.
I even heard in an infomercial that one
of these products, when strapped around
the waist and turned on, does the work
of 700 sit-ups in ten minutes! The ad
shows people doing various abdominal exercises
the wrong way, hating every second of
it, versus smiling men and women going
about their days with "Ab-whatevers"
strapped around them. How enticing.
people in these ads claim to have lost
inches around the waist as a result of
using these products. Many inches. Men
with six-pack abs give credit to the device.
is feeding the viewers' disillusionment
about how to lose the belly. Strengthening
the abs alone (and these machines couldn't
possible do much of that) just won't do
is this? Because of the fat! If a heavy
woman does hundreds of crunches a day,
she may develop strong abs, and they might
tighten up a bit, but she'll still have
lots of fat covering them up, and she
won't look any thinner. About fifty percent
of her body fat is located directly beneath
the skin. Do you know where most of the
rest of it is? Inside the muscles. Doing
crunches will not get rid of this fat,
and neither will the vibrating belt in
the television ads.
best way to slim down in the middle is
to do plenty of cardiovascular exercise.
Some good examples of this are walking,
jogging, swimming, aerobics, bicycling
and high-activity sports like racquetball,
tennis and basketball. Anything that brings
your heart rate to its training zone and
keeps it there for at least twenty minutes
conditions your heart and burns fat. As
you lose subcutaneous fat, your skin will
become more taut. As the fat within your
muscles decreases, you will appear more
toned and less flabby. The number one
thing you need to think about is the cardio.
Five times a week.
Your Body a More Effective Fat Burner
along with cardiovascular work will speed
up and improve the process, but don't
think that you only need to work on your
abs. This is another grave misconception.
truth is that when you work all the larger
muscle groups, adding more mass to your
muscles, you rev up your metabolism to
heights it has never before reached. Your
muscles need extra calories to maintain
themselves, so more of the food you eat
will be feeding your muscles instead of
your trouble spots. Your conditioned heart
(from the cardiovascular stuff) is more
effective at burning calories as well,
so you have the golden combination, there.
the fat comes off your body, it will come
off your belly. Your body fat is like
one organ, located throughout your body,
and you can't take it off of just one
spot unless you have liposuction done.
large muscles that you should concentrate
on are (in this order) front and back
of thighs, buttocks, back, chest, triceps
and biceps. Then, you can throw in calves,
hips, forearms and shoulders.
work your abs at the end of your workout.
There's a good reason for this. You are
indirectly using them for all the other
exercises you do. The abs are important
stabilizer muscles that keep your form
in check. If you do abs first, you will
tire them out, and your whole workout
will be less than optimal. Work down from
the largest to the smallest muscles.
and sit-ups primarily work the largest
abdominal muscle, the rectus abdominis,
which flexes the spine. This muscle compresses
the abdomen to a point, but there are
other muscles that you need to pay attention
to, as well.
internal and external obliques, which
I like to call "nature's girdle",
are located at the sides of the rectus
abdominis. They are the muscles you use
when you bend sideways at the spine or
twist at the waist. They also contract
to compress the abdomen, so you should
work them just as hard as you work the
rectus abdominis. Adding a twist to crunches
works, as well as "side bends"
with dumbbells, but be careful to avoid
jerky motions, especially if you've had
transversus abdominis is located at your
sides, below the obliques. Often called
"lower abs", this is the muscle
that women who are trying to lose the
belly after pregnancy should concentrate
on. Exercises that call for raising the
legs instead of the upper body are very
effective at strengthening the transversus.
puts all of the abdominal muscles to work.
Make sure you swing your arms and contract
your midsection while you walk, and maintain
a brisk pace. Once you get your body accustomed
to a daily walk, you'll hate to go a day
without it. Walk for at least thirty minutes
each time to achieve the aerobic effect,
and be sure to drink plenty of water.
training not only helps the metabolism,
but it also strengthens the bones. Women
who work out with weights are much less
likely to develop osteoporosis in later
years than their counterparts. Adding
muscle also does wonders for the energy
level and self-esteem. Contrary to a popular
myth, lifting weights will not bulk you
up with muscles that will eventually turn
to more fat. They will give you a more
feminine and symmetrical shape. If you
enjoy weight training, do it.
is equally effective at strengthening
the body, especially the abs and back.
It improves the posture tremendously,
to create a taller, leaner appearance.
Many mat-based exercises are also great
important thing is that you find an activity
that you like to do. This will greatly
improve the odds of you sticking to it.
Word About Drugs
loss "supplements" are not safe,
and using them is not a good idea unless
your obesity is so out of control that
your life is at stake. Makers of these
products market them using words like
"natural" and "herbal",
but the truth is that if it's synthetic,
it's a drug.
not just talking about ephedra-based products.
Even over-the-counter, seemingly harmless
drugs can be lethal. For example, scientists
at Yale University School of Medicine
reported that phenylpropanolamine hydrochloride,
found in weight loss aids such as Dexatrim,
increases the risk of hemorrhagic stroke
(bleeding into the brain or into tissue
surrounding the brain) in women. The FDA
is trying to remove it from shelves.
only are these products dangerous, but
they can actually make you gain weight
in the long run. They can cause your body
to go into "starvation mode",
clinging to every calorie it gets for
dear life. Once you've messed your metabolism
up to this point, it is even more difficult
to lose weight. And where does the fat
become the most stubborn? Probably in
the hips, thighs or belly.
most important thing you need to do is
to program yourself mentally. Don't use
a scale to measure your progress. If you
work out with weights, you may gain a
few pounds while losing inches around
the waist. Instead, use that pair of jeans
that you want to fit into again, or a
pair that fits you now. You'll see a slight
change every few weeks, and that should
give you confidence.
as tall as you can. Do back and leg stretches
daily to improve your posture. When you're
driving to work, sit up nice and straight
and adjust the rear-view mirror so that
you'll know when you're slouching. Don't
let your shoulders fall forward when you're
at your desk. You can look a size smaller
just by doing these things.
hate to say it. We've all seen people
with "good genes" and wondered
if they had any idea how lucky they are.
They probably don't, but that's okay.
Consider it a character-building experience.
If you blame your ancestors for excess
flesh in the middle, don't feel helpless.
You just have to work a little harder
than some others. You can still sculpt
out a slimmer silhouette with cardiovascular
exercise, a healthy, balanced, low fat
diet and whatever bonus activities you
throw in. This may not be a novel approach,
but it really works.
not telling you that it's easy, but it
really is pretty simple. In an age where
people don't even have to go outside to
grill a steak, it's tempting to spend
a few dollars on a quick fix. Human anatomy
hasn't changed much throughout history,
however. If you adopt your grandparents'
work ethic and apply it to your every
day life, you will achieve your greatest
Appleby is a certified personal trainer
and weight loss consultant at a fitness
center in south Florida. For more of her
articles, along with weight loss and fitness
tips, news and resources, visit her website