Give your abdominal muscles the attention they deserve. Follow these tips to get a strong core and flat abs.
Types of exercises
Ab exercises have evolved from those that target one area (crunches) to those that engage multiple muscle groups (plank). Despite which type is currently trendy, both will strengthen your abs. Research sponsored by the American Council on Exercise found that the bicycle maneuver, captain’s chair, and crunch on exercise ball are the top three most effective ab exercises. That being said, abdominals rarely work alone and training them with the muscles of the lower back and lower body helps to create a strong core. Incorporate more full body ab exercises, such as high knee lifts, planks with leg lifts, and burpees.
Frequency of workouts
You should train your abdominals no differently than you train other muscles. Do ab exercises 2-3 times per week allowing 1 to 2 rest days in between workouts. Fitness professionals recommend anywhere from 10 to 20 repetitions and 2 to 3 sets of each exercise. Switch up your routine and incorporate new exercises every 4 to 6 weeks to keep your muscles challenged.
Beyond strength training
Abdominal exercises are important for a strong core, but they are just one part of a bigger picture. Cardiovascular exercise, food and drinks, and posture also play a role in your fitness and appearance. Cardio exercise helps to burn the calories required to reduce fat around your stomach and expose muscle. High sodium foods and carbonated beverages can cause water retention and bloating making the stomach appear larger. Poor posture can also cause your stomach to bulge. Pull your shoulders back and contract your abs when you feel yourself beginning to slouch.