The #1 most frequently asked question that I am asked on a regular basis, is “How can I lose my stomach?” Everyone dreams of having a “six pack” or perfect midsection especially during the summer. We all tend to look at magazines and commercials and wish that we could look like a certain person and so we will try anything to reach our goals.
Some people believe that the abdominal muscle is different from any other muscle in the body. This is truly a myth. Muscle is muscle. There is no structural or physiological difference in how the ab muscle contracts and gets stronger than any other muscle. The stomach muscle, also called the rectus abdominus, spans across the stomach and intestines like a bridge over a cavern.
Another myth is that you have to train abs at least every day to see results. You need to train them at least every other day to leave time for recovery just like you would do for any other muscle group. The key is to perform exercises that actually fatigue your muscle so that you actually need time to recover. For example, try to hold up the midsection of your body is a push up position for 30 seconds to a minute but don’t hold your breath. Or lie on your back with your feet straight up in the air and shoulder width apart. Then try to lift your hips off the ground and hold it there for as long as you can.
Lots of people believe you can spot reduce which means you can workout one area of your body over and over again and lose inches in that particular section without doing anything else. Of course study after study proves that there is no such thing as spot reducing. You may develop strong abdominal muscles if you do lots of sit ups but your midsection will still be covered by body fat if you don’t watch your diet and do cardiovascular activity to reduce the fat layer.
You don’t have to do 1,000 ab crunches a day to see results. Most people feel like they have to because they don’t feel a burn until after 100 sit-ups. The problem is not the number, but the technique. Make sure your abdominal contracts before anything else moves, then let the rest follow. Pull your shoulder blades together during crunches so you can’t cheat by pulling your head forward or rounding your upper back. Try to slow down and think about truly contracting your muscle. If you move too fast you will be using momentum to lift up and not your muscle.
Don’t forget that some people have genetics that lend to a more muscular stomach and every ad you see in a magazine is usually airbrushed to make the model look like they have a six pack. So don’t believe everything you see.
If you would like to learn lots of different ways to train your stomach talk with a personal trainer who can show you the correct technique. There are also lots of books that you can purchase that will show pictures and explain the correct techniques. Just remember, you must work on your diet, do cardiovascular and strength exercises to see any parts of your body decrease in inches. You can have six-pack abs but you must make a plan and stay consistent with a workout program. And don’t forget exercise is fun!
Mary Wannall is the owner of Real Life Fitness.
She can be reached at 770-382-4653.