So you think you are ready for an advanced workout to chisel out those abdominals? You know you're ready to sweat and burn out that stomach, ready to take on the challenge of washboard abs. One of the hottest trends of the 90's will become common place in the millennium. Tight, toned abdominals, hard squares and defined lines. There isn't a person who doesn't desire it, but only half of those people have the drive to get the job done!
The stomach musculature is actually more than just abs. Many of you have heard of the upper and lower abs tale, the idea that you can isolate the lower area beneath the belly button or the upper 4 squares. I hate to kill the theory but that is not quite how it is all structured and unfortunately you don't isolate upper or lower abs.
The Rectus Abdominus runs up and down from ribcage to pelvic region. This is the muscle that allows us to do a crunch by bringing the rib cage up or pubis up. First example is as in a crunch where the rib cage is coming up.
Second example is the reverse, the knee raise where the bottom end is 'rolled' up. If this muscle is left untrained you can get the effects of the 'pooch' stomach and excessive curvature in the low back known as Lordosis.
The Transverse Abdominus run directly horizontal used primarily for squeezing in, forced exhalation for example. Breathing exercises will do wonders for this one. Last is the Internal and External Obliques which run diagonally on both sides. This group is exercised with a crunch on an angle so to speak or crunch with rotation which can be done with upper body or lower. In combination this weave of muscle can become very hard and strong when well trained. Keeping these muscles strong is the foundation for a strong core. The abdominals respond well to slow controlled training, quick pulses, and high endurance as well. The below program will take any athlete or advanced exercise enthusiast to his limits!
Lying reverse crunches
This is a mild starter, much like a warm up. You can perform this exercise on a mat or bench. Lying on your back put both hands palms down, directly under your tush, tucking in the elbows as well. Keeping legs together and tight, bring your knees into your chest then straighten your legs out as you bring them back down close to the floor or bench without touching and repeat for a total of 10 to 20 reps. Take a short 30 second rest then repeat for 4 sets. (NOTE: this one is not great if you have lower back issues!!!)
Leg raises on pullup bar
Control is crucial for this exercise so that you don't swing which means not to rush either. Hanging from the pullup bar with a comfortable overhand grip, raise your legs as high as you can (some can only make it to a 90 degree angle others can kiss their toes, go to your level and work for progress) keeping your legs straight and together. Repeat this for 10 reps if you can, then do it again for a total of 4 sets. No swinging!
Obliques on pullup bar
This has the same rules as the Leg raises on the pullup bar except rather than bring your legs up you would bring your knees up with a twist, your heals go up to your hip level on the left then down and next to the right bending the knees to allow this. Squeeze on the side you are working and remember to hit left then right to count as a rep. 4 sets of 10 for this one too! Control this one too.
Lying with your back to the mat, legs extended down and arms extended over head. Begin by bringing your hands and feet together folding the body in half as chin goes to knees doing so with no momentum and keeping back as straight- lead with the chest and hands. The upper and lower body should come together at the same time so that you end up with hands and feet toward the ceiling, then with control lower (unfold) making sure that the hands and feet come down at the same time and repeat without letting your feet sit for more than a second . Complete up to 10 reps for 3 to 4 sets. For the strong ones you can use light ankle and wrist weights for a challenge.
Sitting on the end of a bench hands behind you holding the sides of the bench, knees bent, feet up at knee level. Bring your heal toward your hip, on one side then the other, done in a small movement. Make sure to squeeze on each side as you crunch that side. This will end your Ab training session with 4 sets of 15 to 20 per side.
For a quick stretch to your abdonminals you can lay down face up and reach your hands over your head while you reach your feet down the opposite way, holding for 15 to 30 seconds then accent the reach one hand more than the other to hit the obliques, then switch.
Written by Linda Cusmano
Canadian Fitness Champion and Certified Personal Trainer
Linda is one of Canada's most well known professional fitness competitors. For more information on her, please check out: lindacusmano.com
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