Back to Basics Abdominal Tips

Your core called: you need a reminder of the ABCs of abdominal work, stat!

Abdominal Tips

Summer is here, and you are likely thinking of cold drinks, barbecues and time on the beach. To prep, you could continue your same old, same old routine of cardio and light weights. But if you really want to impress in a bathing suit and feel more capable in everything you do, now’s the perfect time to remind yourself of the dos and don’ts of core work. We’re going to warn you: what you’ve forgotten about this all-important muscle group may surprise you!

Do watch your breathing

Just like other exercises, exhaling on the motion and inhaling as you release is the best way to fuel your muscles as you crunch and twist your way to a tighter stomach. But what about isometric moves, ones wherein you hold a pose for a specified amount of time, like a plank? Make sure you breathe deeply and steadily, ideally in through your nose and out through your mouth, focusing on keeping your body strong and still. (Though we understand if you’re one of those lucky allergy sufferers – just do what you can!)

And with core exercises, since the reps are often high, it can be easy to forget to time your breathing. Be mindful of it during your first set, and soon enough, you’ll find you’re doing it consistently – it will help you keep pace, clear your head and perhaps even fuel your muscles enough to get out a few more reps. Plus, it may reduce the likelihood of lightheadedness.

Don’t waste your time

Remember those infomercial gadgets of yesteryear, the ones that looked like some futuristic torture contraption that were yours with only three easy payments of $19.99, plus shipping? Resist the urge to dust them off, and instead put them where they belong: in the pile of items going to the thrift store, or at the curb for garbage day. Though they may claim fantastic results in a short period of time, if they worked, we would all be walking around with a six-pack.

Do make every rep count

You want to make it to the end of your workout as soon as possible – you’re human, aren’t you? But rushing through your bicycle crunches won’t get you any closer to your goals. Consistent and mindful motions are best to shred your core effectively.

Of course, switching up the length of the concentric (the pull or push motion, when the muscle contracts), isometric (holding the position) and eccentric (lowering or release, when the muscle lengthens) portions of your reps can help hit your muscles in different ways. Just make sure you keep your timing consistent within each set; for instance, if you decide to do sit ups with a 1-2-3 timing scheme (one second to go up, two seconds hold at the top, and three seconds to lower) make sure you stick with it from the first to last rep.

Don’t just stick to the mat

Ab work can be so convenient – just roll out a mat and get to it! But while this approach can be effective, you shouldn’t restrict your core workout to the floor. Think about it: your core is engaged with every motion you do, from walking to squats to overhead presses. So, why shouldn’t you work your core from different positions?

In each core workout, try to incorporate some standing (like cable chops) or hanging (like leg lifts) motions into the mix. This will help you better strengthen your abdominals, so they support you no matter how you are using them.

Don’t think of it as a standalone workout

If you love spending 20 to 30 straight minutes focusing on your abs each week, that’s fantastic! But you can get more bang for your workout buck by splitting up your ab work into five-minute sets that you can tack to the beginning or end of your other workouts. Some people prefer to do cardio on days they aren’t resistance training, which works perfectly with this approach. Simply do a few minutes of crunches, planks and twists at the end of your sweat session, to kill two birds with one stone: your cooldown and an abs workout, all in one.



rachel debling

By : Rachel Debling

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