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Six steps to a rock-hard flat mid-section

This informative and scientific article is written by ANB Champion Glen Danbury

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By Glen Danbury Bsc (Hons), ANB Welsh 2003, 1st,

Look through any health and fitness magazine and what will you find? An article on how to create a flat toned midsection. The problem is how many of you obtained that elusive firm midsection? The reason being for the large failure of most stomach training programs is their lack of addressing all the aspects that can potentially firm your midsection or at least aids in the illusion. Presented below are six steps that together (or potentially alone) will aid you in obtaining that sculpted and granite like midsection we all covet.

Reduce the fat around your midsection.

If I had a penny for every time I was asked which stomach exercise would burn off the fat from the midsection I would be added to the hundred most rich list instantly. Unfortunately I have to be the bearer of bad news – spot reduction or burning of subcutaneous (under the skin) fat from a single site is pure myth, its just not physiologically possible. When burning off fat you release hormones throughout your blood stream and breakdown fat from all over your body.

In order to make your body burn off its fat stores you need to create a calorie deficit through your food choices and exercise, which eventually will reduce the fat from your midsection and the rest of your body. In order to burn off one pound of fat a week you need to create a weekly calorie deficit of 3500kcals or 500kcals a day. This for most people just means just cutting out the junk food, if this does not work increase your daily activities (exercise classes, jogging, sports, gardening –whatever) and slowly decrease your meal sizes until you start losing a pound per week and no more!

I do not want to make this in to a fat loss article, as there has been numerous and effective articles already written within this magazine. Just keep in mind that if you don't reduce your body fat you will never obtain a truly toned midsection – regardless of the stomach exercises you do.

Train your stomach muscles, not your hip muscles.


Being in the fitness industry allows me to witness how most people train their midsections, usually endless leg raises, full sit ups etc. Most of these exercises just put the workload upon your hip flexors (the muscles responsible for bringing your knees towards your chest). Considering that you want to work your stomach it would seem sensible to select exercises that mainly work your rectus abdominis (the muscle that gives you that six pack look), and the simplest exercise for that is the crunch.

To perform the crunch lay face up on a mat with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. To reduce the stress on your neck, pick a point on the ceiling and stare at it though out the exercise. The easiest position has your arms straight and your hands on your thighs. Begin by bringing your shoulders and upper body off of the ground to the highest point before your lower back comes of the ground, pause and slowly lower back down. Repeat.

Considering you now know spot reduction doesn't work, stop doing hundreds of repetitions non-stop on stomach exercises. Rather perform 3-4 sets of fifteen to twenty repetitions, if this is easy add resistance by either adding weights or moving your hands closer to your head to increase the leverage.

Train your transverse abdominis.


Caroline PearceMost people neglect to train their transverse abdominis, which is a muscle responsible for drawing in your stomach and adds stability to your spine. Obviously by being able to draw in your stomach you will reduce your waistline. To strengthen you transverse abdominis you can do two things. The first is to perform a prone bridge exercise.

To perform a prone bridge, kneel down resting upon your forearms and knees. Draw your stomach in and up whilst keeping your back flat and hold this position for thirty to sixty seconds. You should feel a burning sensation deep in your stomach, this indicates you are doing the exercise correctly and working the correct muscle. Once you can do ninety seconds perform the exercise off your forearms and toes, so there is a straight line formed from your body running from your shoulders down to your feet.

The second potential way of training your transverse abdominis involves nothing more than a piece of string. Draw your stomach in (don't hold your breathe), tie the string around your stomach loosely so that when you relax your transverse abdominis you feel your stomach press upon the string. Throughout the day try to maintain your position of drawing in your stomach, the string will act as a sign that your are relaxing the muscles. You will find that if you maintain correct posture this will be infinitely easier, which brings us to the next step in the pursuit of that flat hard stomach.

Train your shoulder retractors and lower back.


As I look around I see endless people with poor postures, which are the result of training programs which over concentrate on working the chest and shoulders combined with sedentary jobs where you are sitting at a desk or in Front of a computer terminal all day. The result of this poor posture is rounded shoulders and a slumped forward appearance, which just pushes your stomach out! To test this all you have to do is stand up straight whilst drawing your shoulders back and instantly witness your stomach flatten. Strengthening the muscles responsible for maintaining an upright posture (lower back) and drawing your shoulders back (scapula retractors) will lead to a flattening effect on your stomach. At the gym you will find endless variations of the seated row to work your scapula retractors, if however you are training at home or want to do a free weight version you can perform a bent over row.

Take hold of a heavy object in each hand (dumbell or weighted carrier bag) and bend your knees and lean forward at the waist whilst keeping your back flat until your body is at forty five degrees to the ground. Your arms should be virtually straight and from this position pull your elbows up and back until your hands are by the side of your upperbody, lower and repeat. Maintaining this bent over position will also strengthen your lower back.

Stretch your chest.

Just like having weak scapula retractors, a too tight and inflexible chest will cause you shoulders to round forward and your posture will slump forward, which will once again cause your stomach to protrude.

To stretch your chest, gently grasp your hands behind your back, elbows bent and raise your arms behind you until you feel a gentle stretch in the chest and shoulders, hold for fifteen to thirty seconds.

Stretch your hip flexors.


Hip flexors (the muscles responsible for bringing your legs towards your chest) that are too tight will cause your pelvis to anterior rotate (rotate forward), this will cause your stomach to protrude out, even if you are lean and toned. Having too tight a hip flexors is common, considering we sit at desks day in day out and most training programs put a fair degree of work their way.

Zak PallikarosTo stretch the hip flexors kneel down, put one foot flat on the floor in front of you so you look like you are about to propose (lads don't do this around the girlfriend or she will get the wrong idea and you will be forking out for a diamond solitaire). Keeping your body upright lean forward so you increase the angle at the hip joint of the leg that is kneeling on the ground. You should feel a stretch around the front of your hips, hold for fifteen to thirty seconds and repeat for both sides.

There you have it, a total program which addresses all the factors which will aid you in obtaining that elusive flat rock hard midsection. From correct exercises to work the essential stomach muscles, an idea of what needs to be done to burn off that stubborn bodyfat and even improvements in your posture that will flatten and flatter your waistline. You now have no excuses so get to it!

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