Getting in Your Ab Workout
No gym is complete if you're not working your abs. The rectus abdominus, internal and external obliques all need to be targeted to get that ripped abs look. Of course, your abs are only part of your total core. When referring to your entire core, you would also want to target the shoulders, back and chest area. If you just worked your abs you would be putting yourself at risk for muscle imbalances and back strain. It’s no fun trying to show off a six-pack if you need pain killers to get through a walk on the sand.
This is one of the places where your mat will count. A mat with a little more thickness will help cushion the impact of hard floors on the spine. The most effective of the floor workouts will include a Russian twist, planks and bicycle crunches.
One of the most effective ways to target your abs is to integrate Pilates into your workout routine. Pilates’ abs can't be missed. They are flat and tight and are one of the best ab workouts for women looking to lose baby fat or an age-related droop.
While there are Pilates machines called Reformers that are used by everyone from stay-at-home moms to NFL teams, the basic Pilates exercises can be done without any equipment at all.
Other good ab workouts include using a Physio ball. Physio balls or Swiss balls are made with PVC and come in different sizes. They force you to engage more muscles than standard floor ab workouts because you are forced to balance on top of the exercise ball. The easiest way to get used to the Swiss ball (sometimes called a "yoga ball") is to rest it against a wall so that it doesn't slip out from behind you. Where shoes with rubber soles to ensure your feet are stable on the floor and you're good to go.
Measured in centimeters, exercise balls come in different sizes and your height determines which one is right for you.
These are the approximate measurements:
55 cm - 4'11" - 5'4"
65 cm - 5'5" - 5'11"
75 cm - 6'0" - 6' 7"
When properly inflated, sit on the ball. Your hips should be level with your knees. A little higher is better than a little lower.
The Physio Ball takes a little getting used to. You can start with a basic crunch with the ball resting against a wall to increase its stability. The ball actually engages more of your ab muscles than standard floor crunches so you're getting a more in-depth ab workout in the same amount of time.
If you're still intimidated by the instability of the exercise ball, try The Bean. Adding more air makes it easier to use and you can get more of a challenge by letting some of the air out. I've heard of more than one person with back problems say this is the answer to regaining fitness while recovering. There is a report that the manufacturer went out of business so don't hesitate to get one if this sounds like something you'd be interested in trying.
New Ab Ideas
There are new options for good workouts being introduced all the time. Some new options are standing ab routines and dance routines that target the six-pack.
The ab straps pictured above are incredibly effective as long as you have a bar that will support your weight. It basically replaces the Captain’s Chair you will find at the gym. You can see this type of workout being used by every trainer on TV from Jillian Michaels and Bob Harper to Jackie Warner. They’re using it because it works.
Eat Well for Washboard Abs
Make no mistake though. You won't see your abs if your sugar and fat intake is high. Going for ripped abs means proper nutrition and burning calories with cardio exercises. Check out sites like Fitness Magazine's Recipes and Eating Well Magazine for great recipes and other pointers on getting a handle on your love handles.