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The abdomen and its surrounding muscles are some of the hardest to sculpt. And while many of us would love to score the rock hard abs of fitness models and celebrities, forget about aesthetics. The real reason to go after that six-pack has less to do with appearances and more to do with your general health (excess abdominal weight can often lead to heart disease and diabetes).
Fortunately, fitness instructors Leanna Feeney, assistant fitness coordinator, and Jill Garrigan, intercollegiate athletics fitness coordinator, gave us the low-down on the abdominal slim-down.
Fact or Fiction
The first step to sculpting enviable abs is sorting the true from the false. Feeney explains that one common misconception is the idea that the abdominal muscles consist of two parts, the lower abs and the upper abs.
“In fact, they are all one,” says the washboard abs instructor. “Your abdominal rectus is a large muscle that covers your entire front mid section.”
Another myth? That washboard abs are, in fact, attainable for everyone.
Garrigan explains that just as our bodies are all shaped differently, our bodies store and shred fat differently. Thus, “there are some people who could watch their diet fastidiously and we still wouldn’t see washboard abs,” she says. “It doesn’t seem fair, but it’s genetically for some and not for others.”
It Takes More Than Crunches
While there may be no magic spell for shaping the body you want, there is a no-fail formula. It’s one we’ve heard since the beginning of modern time: diet and exercise, people.
“In most cases, only doing core exercises is not going to give us the six-pack abs we all wish,” explains Feeney. “Weight loss with total body exercise may need to occur as well.”
Garrigan further emphasizes this by noting, “You can have very strong abs, but if you have a layer of fat overtop you won’t see them!” Thus, a combination of strength training, cardio and a healthy diet are all key elements in scoring a tight midsection.
Try This At Home
So what are their favorite moves? Both women agree that planks are their go-to move when it comes to ab work. Feeney suggests doing side planks “to focus slightly more on your obliques,” but also assures that “any exercise where you are flexing at the hips while laying on the ground, such as a crunch, will be great for the abdominal area.”
Garrigan adds that “full sit ups and stabilizing exercises really strengthen your core,” and mentions that “if somebody wants to leave [my] class feeling like they’ve got [a good workout], I throw in some crunches.”
As for other ideas, try incorporating a medicine ball while leaning back and twisting from side to side. The resistance from leaning, along with the added weight, will help shape your obliques more effectively than basic side crunches.
Another move to consider? Place a stability ball (the big bouncy ones) between your feet and ankles, and bring your legs straight up. Reach your arms out, grab the ball and lower your legs back down. Repeat for 10-12 reps for two or three sets and embrace the burn!
True beauty starts from the inside and so do six-pack abs. You have to put the right things inside to see the results you want on the outside. Thus, while exercising might increase those muscles, eating a balanced diet will give you that sexy stomach you’ve always dreamed of.
Photo by Teddy Walker