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Ab workouts are perhaps the most requested set of exercises for the weight loss/get-in-shape/be-fit/that’s-my-New-Year’s-resolution crowd because everybody wants to have a flat belly. The problem is that you can’t get a flat belly by just doing sit-ups. (Sit-ups are also a risky exercise for people prone to or those who have osteoporosis—it’s possible to fracture a vertebrae.) But don’t let that faze you from exercising your abdominal muscles; in addition to wanting a “flat belly” appearance, you’d also like to have improved posture and balance. And what are the abdominal muscles called, you may ask? You have five of them:
• Obliquus externus abdominis
• Obliquus internus abdominis
• Transversus abdominis
• Rectus abdominis
• Linea alba
Sure sound impressive, don’t they? Well, they are. All of these muscles help provide movement and support for your trunk, and they also assist in the breathing process. Further, they provide protection for the internal organs. So yes, your abdominal muscles are a very important muscle group!
Ab workouts approved by your personal trainer contain the exercises you need to perform in order to strengthen and define the stomach muscles. Regardless of whichever exercise discipline you choose to follow (Pilates, yoga, tai chi, perhaps even more than one), remember to perform within the prescribed limits of your fitness level: beginner, intermediate, advanced, and expert.
Ab workouts through strength training are the most effective in terms of changing your body’s physical appearance since a lean, well-proportioned body is only achieved through losing body fat and gaining muscle. Your ab workouts will include crunches, machine abdominal curls (only attempt this exercise when your abdominals are strong—there’s no need to strain or injure your back in pursuit of the “six-pack”), lower abdomen raises, twists, and combinations of these. Even performing the push-up using a stability ball is a good ab workout.
Ab workouts to give you flexibility include doing total body stretches, as well as the standing side stretch, the seated side stretch, and the sphinx. The best set of Ab workouts you can do for yourself feature no exercise whatsoever—just watch what you eat and drink. You don’t want that beer gut anymore? Eliminate alcohol from your diet. If you’re not interested in eliminating alcohol completely from your life (that is a big change), instead, just reduce your intake—lower your limits to 8 units per week for men and 6 units per week for women. (e.g., one unit equals one glass of wine, or one measure of spirits, or half a pint of beer.) Keep hydrated by drinking two liters of water a day.
Regardless if you are doing ab workouts primarily to achieve a certain look or not, (e.g., a flat belly), you will look and feel better anyway by strengthening your body’s core and building up your aerobic capacity. The key aspect for all abdominal exercises is to maintain control in the stomach; do not let the momentum of your body allow you to make the reps. The benefit is in performing fewer high-quality stomach exercises.
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