No doubt the most common question from female clients! And there is so much conflicting information out there it can be confusing!
Let me first start by saying this:
You don’t need to do ab specific exercises to get a toned stomach.
That's right! A common myth is that doing ab specific workouts will get you noticeable abs – not true!
It is overall body fat percentage that will determine how much of your ab muscles will be visible.
We all have a 6 pack – some are just hidden under a layer of fat and therefore not visible.
Having a low enough body fat percentage = visible abs!
So how do you do that?
In order to decrease body fat you need to burn fat – with a combination of exercise and nutrition:
- Intensity, intensity, intensity! Training with intensity is more efficient and changes in the body will be much quicker than doing long hours of steady state cardio. So if you want to make changes quicker – up the intensity! Sprinting, plyometrics and any HIIT workout.
- A lot of you have heard the saying that “abs are made in the kitchen” and for the most part that is pretty much true – it plays a huge role. Because if you eat more than you are burning in the day then you will store more fat and that layer will find its way onto your stomach. So to start seeing some improvements take note of how much processed food you are eating during the day, how much sugar is included in your diet and how big your portion sizes are.
What about your "core"?
When most people speak of their core they are usually referring to their stomach muscles. Your core actually includes more than just “abs”. It includes the deep abdominal muscles, the pelvic floor, your lower back stabilizers, and the glute (bum and hip) muscles – basically all those muscles that stabilize your spine. Think of your core like a “belt” – and the muscles are on the front, the back and the side of your body.
A lot of the time I hear clients complaining of lower back pain, especially those who are sitting behind a computer all day. This has a lot to do with core strength and posture. Engaging your core does not just mean sucking in your stomach. Roll your shoulders back, stick out your chest (chest proud), tuck your pelvis, and squeeze your glute muscles. You should then feel the lower part of your abs engaging to support your spine.
Doing core focused workouts such as different plank variations, spiderman push ups, push up planks etc (rather than traditional sit ups) will strengthen your core and give you a strong base for performing other exercises as well as improving your posture.
Doing 100 sit ups a day will not get you a six pack. You cannot remove body fat from one particular part of the body. Getting a 6 pack is about achieving a low level of body fat – so you would be better off spending that time preparing your meals and focusing on core and compound movements.
I love doing ab specific exercises but I do not do them a lot. The reason being is that my abs get a good enough workout when I am doing compound exercises like squats, lunges, push ups and deadlifts because my core is working and switched on all of the time.
Planks are great for the lower back when done with correct form and are amazing for core development. They are challenging and there are many progressions to make it a little bit harder. When you can work up to a 2 min plank you can start progressing (eg. Lift one leg up, lift one leg and opposite arm up, shoulder taps).
Each day this week try to hold a plank for one minute and take note of your time. Repeat this 3-4 times. Each day that you do this aim to hold just a little bit longer. Once you reach 2 mins, let me know and I will email you some awesome progressions.
I’d love to know how you go.