by Paul Dexter, Copyright dextertraining.com
Ab-training is not as complicated as most people imagine. The fact that entire books and series of ab-training videos have been devoted to the endeavor is not a reliable indicator otherwise. Making simple things seem complicated, adding a sense of mystery, to sell a product is a very old marketing technique. The truth is you do not need more than two exercises in any given workout to properly train your abdominals. The reason behind this simplicity is that what we think of as the abs is really just one muscle, the rectus abdominus. Tendons criss-cross this muscle and divide it into segments, giving the illusion of four to eight distinct muscles (not everyone has a six-pack, the number ranges from four to eight). The abs have one function – flexion of the spine, or bring the ends toward each other.
This action can be duplicated in two ways: bringing the sternum toward the pelvis, as in any type of crunch or situp movement, and bringing the pelvis toward the sternum, as in all types of leg raises, knee raises or frog kicks. If someone is trying to make ab training into something far more difficult to understand and apply, rest assured they are after your money (tapes, infomercials, ab-lounges, etc.). The main route this is accomplished is via the perpetuation of a myth more pervasive than the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny – Spot Reduction.
The mistaken impression is that doing exercises for the abdominal region burns fat in that area, particularly the subcutaneous fat that lies between the skin and the muscle. But training a muscle can only do three things: 1) grow in size, 2) stay the same size, 3) reduce in size (overtraining). Note I did not mention that a muscle can get more toned. That is right up there with the myth that high reps are better for definition. Whenever you hear that you can be sure that the person you are talking to has no idea what they are talking about. The little-known fact is that if everybody got down to a low enough bodyfat percentage you would clearly see abdominal definition. The only reason we bother training abs, is so that the muscle is thick enough to stand out in bold relief once that fat has been shed through cardiovascular exercise and a proper diet regimen. Also, a strong set of abs is a good insurance policy against a lower back injury. Training the abs is one critical component of the pyramid – training, cardio, and diet.
Cardio, the second part, is important because it helps you expend calories. You should try to burn more calories than we are taking in – that is how fat is lost. More intense forms of cardio are far more effective for fat loss. Walking for an hour will only burn 100 to 200 calories for the average individual. Effective cardio consists of heavy breathing and sweating, no way around it – if it were easy everyone would have a six-pack. Higher amount of effort equals higher energy expenditure.
When you do your cardio is also important. The body will tap into its fat stores for energy only when glycogen levels are low (in other words – carbohydrates). If you have a big bowl of pasta before cardio, the pasta will be burned before you tap into any bodyfat. The two best times to do your cardio is first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, or immediately after your weight training session.
Lastly, Diet is the most important. If you eat more than you burn, all the training and cardio in the world won’t be able to give you that six-pack you desire. The basic principle is that you must expend more calories than you take in. Eating properly for fat loss is a topic that could not only fill a book, but has hundreds of times over. Try to keep it simple, garbage in equals garbage out! If you eat bad, you will look bad. Try to eat 5-7 small meals every 2-3 hours throughout the day. This will keep your metabolism high and allow your body to process what you eat more efficiently. Just remember to keep the total calories for the day, less than what you need to maintain your weight.
Remember anything worth having doesn’t come easy. If it was everyone would have the perfect body, unfortunately there is no substitution for hard work. Don’t fall into the trap that there is a magic pill, or a magic diet program. If those things worked don’t you think that they could get more than $19.95 for something that was supposed to give you the perfect body everyone is dying for? No such thing! It has been the same for years, work hard, eat right, and follow a healthy lifestyle.