Photo Courtesy of Steven Trujillo, AZ
Leg lifts, reverse crunches, oblique crunches, ball crunches, oblique twists…The ever-endless quest to attain a chiseled tummy that we all want. Listen up Mommies… I challenge you to re-think how you are training your abs to attain a midsection that’s not only muscular, but most importantly tight, flat and strong.
Unfortunately, the classic bodybuilding images of “The Arnold” and Frank Zane’s tight, vacuumed, waistlines, in comparison to their massive built physiques that shine on stage today, have become a standard of the past. Looking at old stage shots, you very rarely saw thick, protruding abdominals during pose-downs, These guys stuck to traditional moves, because that was all they had. Let’s remember, there were very few fancy, mass-marketed contraptions back then that promised effective core training and six-packs. These guys listened to their bodies and stuck to the basic nuts and bolts of bodybuilding.
Before getting too complicated, we need to understand and agree that your abdominal muscles are no different than any other muscle in your body, when broken down and fed, they will grow. With that being said, proper abdominal training needs to be carefully examined and monitored to prevent producing not only a thick waistline, but a protruding gut.
If you don’t know what these two initials stand for, get to know them. The often neglected Transverse Abdominis, are the ultra-deep tummy muscles that are crucial for not only creating a flat mid-section, but providing overall back support and core strength for explosive exercises.
Many times, when we do a simple ab exercise such as a basic crunch, and fail to activate these muscles properly. Instead most of the work goes to the rectus abdominus (the muscles on top of the TA) and the hip flexors.
TRAIN FROM THE INSIDE OUT
In order to create flat abs, start from the inside of your abdominal wall, in this case the TA. Let’s face it, if you add size and strength to the top, without building a solid foundation underneath, the end result will suffer.
The simplest and most effective way to nail the TA is doing vacuum isometric holds on your feet…valuable advice that learned from my figure trainer, Damian Segovia. Stand tall with your heels under your hips, exhale all the air out of your gut and suck that lower abdominal wall back as if you want your belly button to touch your spine. Master this exercise for 3 seconds at time, progressing to 5, 10 and 30 seconds, as your strength increases. Three sets of 10 vacuums a day is a great start.
Once you master the standing vacuum pose, you are ready to test this technique with my 3 favorite abdominal exercises: Crunches on a stability ball, hanging leg raises and reverse crunches. When performing all three moves, always focus on pulling-in or “vacuuming” your lower abdominal back into your spine, even before starting the exercises.
THE COMPLETE PACKAGE
As with any specific training goal, you must look at all facets of your efforts to evaluate your chances of reaching success. Remember, you need to shed the layer of fat on your mid-section before your razor sharp abs can ever magically appear.
• Replace sugary, empty calories with whole, clean foods packed with power. Think lean proteins, low-glycemic carbohydrates and heart-healthy fats.
• Hydrate that body and flush it out every day with clean, fresh water to prevent water retention.
• Training should always include both strength and cardiovascular exercise to promote fat trimming and lean muscle building.
• Attention Moms…Keep twisting abdominal work that targets the oblique’s to a minimum, you want your waist to be a tiny as possible!