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Health and Fitness Tips
Abs of Steel
With summer just a month away, it is time to begin to think about what our abs will look like. I proclaim the summer of 2021 the "Summer of the Ab." What does this mean and why? I want my readers to be confident that they can sport a sculpted stomach during outdoor events. However, we must begin to prepare now.
I have a friend who says, "I have a six-pack of abs, you just can't tell because I also have a cooler that is hiding them." I put together a few simple exercises to help him prepare for a summer at the beach and lounging by the pool.
There are three muscle groups in the abdominals. The first of these is the rectus abdominis, the wall of muscle that covers the front of the abdomen and gives your abs a washboard appearance. The rectus abdominis helps to flex your torso forward at the waist. When it contracts, it pulls your hips toward your shoulders.
The second important muscle group is the obliques at the sides of your waist. This group is usually called the external obliques, although there are really three layers of muscle there including the external, internal, and transverse oblique muscles. The obliques contract to both bend your torso to the side and to help you twist your torso in relation to your hips.
The final abdominal muscle group is the intercostals, which run diagonally across your sides above the obliques. Your intercostals run from the top of your obliques up to the serratus muscle of your chest, and they contract to help flex your body at the waist and twist your torso in relation to your hips and legs.
I encourage all my clients to do their abdominal exercises every other day, after they have completed their cardiovascular or weightlifting exercises.
When you perform sit-ups, you primarily stress the rectus abdominis muscle wall. And when you do the movement with a twist, you place significant stress on your intercostals as well.
Lie on your back on an adjustable abdominal board, your feet at the upper end. Hook your toes under the strap or roller pads at the end of the board. Bend your legs slightly and keep them bent throughout the movement in order to protect your lower back from undue strain. Either fold your arms across your chest or interlace your fingers behind your head and neck during the exercise.
Curl your torso off the board by first lifting your head, then shoulders, upper back, and lower back until your torso is perpendicular to the floor. Reverse the procedure to return to the starting point. Perform 10 reps and a total of 5 sets.
You can increase the intensity of this exercise by either holding a light barbell plate behind your head or by incrementally raising the foot end of the abdominal board.
Parallel Bar Leg Raises
As with all forms of leg raises, this movement stresses the entire front abdominal wall, particularly the lower part of the rectus abdominis.
Most gyms have a special apparatus for performing this movement. Step-up on the foot platforms facing away from the back pad. Place your elbows and forearms on the pads provided for them, brace your back against the inclined blackboard, and lift your feet from the platforms. Press your legs together and bend them slightly during the movement to reduce the potentially harmful stress on your lower back.
Slowly raise your feet upward in a semicircular arch, your thighs are above an imaginary line drawn parallel to the floor through your hips. Lower your feet back to the starting point and repeat the movement for ten-repetitions. Complete a total of four sets.
This low-intensity exercise places stress on your front abdominals, particularly on the lower parts of your rectus abdominis.
Sit on the end of a flat exercise bench and lean back until your torso is at a 45 degree angle with the floor and bench. Grasp the edges of the bench to steady your torso in the position throughout the movement. Extend your legs so they make one long line with your torso. Your feet should be just above the level of the floor at the start of the movement.
Simultaneously pull your knees up to your chest and bend your legs completely. Just as your knees come up to your chest, incline your head toward them. Return to the starting point and repeat the movement for 10 reps and a total of 4 sets.
You can add resistance to this movement by holding a light dumbbell between your feet.
This movement is for the oblique muscles, although it's a fallacy to believe that doing massive numbers of twists will help to trim fat around your waist. As a by-product, you will find that seated twists help to loosen up your lower back.
Straddle a flat exercise bench and either place your feet firmly flat on the floor or interlace your legs in the uprights of the bench to secure your body during the exercise. Place a broomstick or unloaded barbell across your shoulders and wrap your arms around the bar.
Without moving your legs and hips, twist as far as you can to the left with your upper torso. Immediately twist back as far as you can to the right, and repeat the movement from one side to the other in rhythmic fashion for 10 reps and a total of 4 sets. Count one full cycle to both sides as a single rep.
Watch your diet, perform your abdominal exercises and order a tight shirt online to show off those great abs this Summer.
Rick Gusler is a certified personal trainer and diet nutritionist who serves his clients through Gusler Body Sculpting Fitness Center in central Denver. To schedule a free consultation, or to learn more about the Gusler method of body sculpting, spin yoga, or Rick's Boot Camp, please contact him at 303.860.7131 or online at www.guslerbodysculpting.com.
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