So you want flatter abs, eh? You’ve tried doing some sit ups, and you’ve seen the gadgets on late night TV that claim to be the best thing for abs since Photoshop, but you’re still battling that little bulge that won’t budge!
Chances are you’re approaching it all wrong.
Getting lean abs is one thing, but you can have lean abs and still not have a flat tummy! 90s BodyBuilders proved this better than anyone. Bum-bags weren’t the only thing sticking out of the front of their technicoloured lycra.
What you need for a flat tummy and tight waistline is a 4-pronged approach.
The first and most important one is the right eating plan, but once that’s in place, you need to focus, not on the six-pack muscles of your abs, but three areas that are often overlooked.
1) Lower Abs:
Particularly in our sit-at-a-desk 21st century world, in most people these are weak. And weak lower abs contribute to all kinds of conditions – Including lower back pain, and no-one wants that, right?
One of those conditions, though, is a bulge or paunch in our lower tummy area.
When we do crunches and sit ups and other traditional go-to ab exercises, we just don’t put any real focus on the lower abs. What we need to do instead is focus, not on crunching from the top down, but crunching from the bottom up. I.e. curling your pelvis off the floor rather than curling your shoulders off the floor.
Here’s how to do it right:
2) Tighter Core:
What if I told you the muscles responsible for making your waist tighter aren’t actually your abs? In fact what if I told you you can’t even see them?
That’s right, like every magician, there’s someone behind the scenes designing new ways to trick you into thinking that the rabbit was never in that hat the whole time! And in this case that guy is called Transverse Abdominis – Or TVA for short.
This muscle is underneath your other ab muscles and wraps around your mid-section, attaching at the back like a corset. And it functions in pretty much the same way.
If you want to pull your waistline in, pull this muscle in.
There’s one exercise that’s exceptional for doing this, and that’s Stomach Vaccuums.
Start by kneeling on all fours, then blow out all the air in your lungs, then pull your belly button in trying to touch your spine. Hold that for 2-3 seconds, relax, take a few breaths and repeat 3-5 times. It should take about 60-90 seconds in all, so do this 2-3 times daily before food.
3) Stronger Core:
Lastly, your TVA needs to have the strength to stay ‘switched on’. It’s not like most muscles. It’s designed to be active all the time you’re sitting, standing, running, jumping… Whatever you’re doing (with the exception of sleeping) your TVA is there supporting you. Protecting your lower back, and maintaining your posture.
Or it should be… Plot twist!
But most of the time we just let it relax which, apart from putting us at risk of lower back pain, makes our abs look distended, no matter how lean you are. Whether you have a six pack or an eight pack, if your core is weak you’ll still be victim to the sticky-outy belly! It’s also likely to create an arch in your lower back making the issue worse.
So whether you’re standing or sitting, these muscles around your core should be observing the 30% rule, and by that we mean they should be pulled in to about 30%.
The best way to visualise this is to suck your tummy in all the way, like a stomach vacuum, then let it out half way, then half way again. That will be roughly 30%, and that’s where you should practice trying to keep it.
To strengthen it in the way we want, the undisputed champion of core endurance exercises has to be the plank and its many variations. Here’s how to do it right:
So, yes, do work your abs, but remember, if you want a flat stomach to go with those sexy indents, you need to dig a little deeper and look below the surface.