Almost everyone works out for the abs! Whether you want a 6-pack or just want to lose some weight from your midsection, having a tight core has become the image of fitness. And, while it might look good, there’s other benefits to having strong abdominals too. They’ll help to protect your lower back from injury, improve your balance and increase your athletic performance. So, here are 8 steps to strong and lean abs that anyone can take.
1. Forget Spot Reduction
Spot reduction is a myth! No matter how many sit-ups, crunches and planks you do, you won’t get lean abs without losing fat from your WHOLE body. And, doing ab exercises isn’t going to burn enough calories to let you reveal that 6-pack. Instead of spending ages working those abs, include more of the following exercises…
Have you ever looked at a sprinter and admired how strong and lean they are? There’s a good reason for that! Sprinting is one of the most effective ways to shed body fat. In fact, at least half of the weight lost from sprinting comes from the midsection. By improving your insulin sensitivity and resetting some of your hormones, you’ll be able to burn more fat to reveal those abs.
3. Lift Heavy
Strength training with whole body movements such as squats, lunges and deadlifts is one of the best ways to burn more fat. Not only do these exercises use more muscles than isolation exercises, they help to build muscle which in turn, boosts your metabolism. By practicing these compound movements, you’ll also be using your core muscles to build stronger abs.
4. Always Engage Your Core
Your trainer has probably already told you to focus on engaging your core muscles when you do almost any exercise. However, it’s also important to keep engaging those abdominals throughout the rest of your life. As well as protecting your back and hips from injury, keeping your core tight promotes good posture and keeps the muscles strong.
5. Pay Attention to Your Breathing
If you’ve ever done a yoga class, you would have been introduced to the importance of correctly timing your breathing. Your diaphragm sits right over your abs and can be used to create a stronger contraction of your abdominal muscles. By performing deep breathing exercises while you exercise, you can activate those 6-pack muscles to develop a stronger core. Ask your personal trainer to show you how to do this correctly.
6. Focus on Nutrition
Since losing fat is required to show off your strong abs, you’ll need to eat right to get there. Make sure you include lots of protein in your diet as well as healthy fats and quality carbohydrates to shed excess weight.
7. Eat Enough
It might be tempting to keep cutting and cutting your daily calories. But, it’s actually one of the worst things you can do for long-term weight loss! When you don’t eat enough your body quickly reduces your metabolism to preserve your fat stores and keep you alive. Ask your personal trainer or nutritionist to put together an appropriate meal plan for you. Alternatively, try using a total daily energy expenditure to calculate how many calories you need.
8. Reduce Stress
This point is the hardest to put into action. But, without addressing your stress levels, you won’t be able to get strong, lean abs. Every time you experience physical or emotional stress your cortisol levels spike. Too much cortisol and your body starts to store more fat around the midsection. Reduce the sources of stress in your life, try yoga and/or meditation and have more fun!