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By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE
A while back, I wrote “Pro Tips For A Tight, Flat Tummy.” My goal was to teach that in order to get a flat and tight tummy, you need to reduce body fat through a calorie-reduced nutrition program, incorporate strength training (2-3 days per week) and cardiovascular exercise (3-5 days per week for at least 30 minutes) to stimulate the metabolism.
If you think 100 or 1000 abdominal crunches a day will give you celebrity abs, then please re-read the paragraph above. I sometimes overemphasize this point because of all the myths we’re bombarded with about how to actually flatten the abs.
My goal is to provide you with an abdominal routine that will strengthen and tighten your abs. No anatomy lesson today, just the workout — direct and no nonsense.
The effectiveness of any exercise is based on proper technique, sufficient intensity and intelligent frequency. So work it hard!
1. Reverse Ab Curl
This exercise is for the lower abdominal area. I’m always amazed how many people always start their abdominal routine with some sort of a crunch movement for the upper ab region, yet most of the complaints I receive pertain to the lower portion of the abs.
To perform the exercise, lie on a mat with your back relaxed and your hands on the floor by your hips. Keep the upper back pressed into the floor throughout the exercise. Contracting your abs, raise your butt and gently roll your hips off the floor, stopping when you feel a full contraction of the abdominals and can no longer lift your hips. Slowly return to the starting position.
Exhale while lifting your hips and inhale while returning to the starting position. Don’t focus on your legs pulling inward. Instead, place all your focus on the lower abs pulling in. It may be difficult to initially concentrate on the area, but once you practice it enough with the correct mental concentration, you’ll really feel the area being worked.
2. Double Crunch
The Double Crunch is a great exercise because when performed correctly, it focuses on both the upper and lower abdominal region.
Lie on a mat face up. Bend your knees until your legs are at a 45-degree angle with both feet on the floor. Your back should be comfortably relaxed on the floor. Place both hands crossed gently over your chest or on the sides of your head with the finger tips touching gently. Contracting your abdominals, raise your head and legs off the floor toward one another. Crunch hard and tight. I want you to hold the contraction at the top of the movement for one second.
Slowly return to the starting position, stopping just short of your shoulders and feet touching the floor. Exhale while rising up and inhale while returning to the starting position. Keep your eyes on the ceiling to avoid pulling with your neck.
3. Bicycle Maneuver
Research consistently rates the Bicycle Maneuver as one of the most effective abdominal exercises.
Lie on a mat with your lower back in a comfortable position. Place your finger tips on either side of your head by your ears. Bring your knees up to about a 45-degree angle. Slowly go through a bicycle pedaling motion, alternating your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.
This can be a more advanced exercise. Do not perform this activity if it puts any strain on your lower back. Do not pull on your head and neck during this exercise. The lower to the ground your legs bicycle, the harder your abs have to work.
If you’re a beginner, perform each movement slowly and at your own pace. Try for 15-20 repetitions on each exercise and take your time moving from one exercise to the next. Perform only one cycle. A cycle is defined as performing all four exercises in order. Attempt the routine three days per week on non-consecutive days of the week. Don’t worry if you can’t get the recommended rep range. Do as many as possible with good form and try to increase week to week.
For those with more experience, perform three cycles with one minute rest between each cycle. The key is to keep the intensity level high. As you progress, you’ll be amazed at how many reps you can perform and how hard and tight your abs get. Perform the routine three days per week on non-consecutive days.
Remember, work at your own personal fitness level and focus on perfect form to avoid injury and in order to isolate the muscle. Also, don’t forget to stretch after every workout for 5-10 minutes.
This routine is effective and produces results when you’re consistent on your eDiets nutrition plan and overall exercise program. It’s all about balancing all the components to achieve your celebrity abs.
Check with your doctor before beginning any exercise program.
A drug-free competitive bodybuilder and 2005 winner of the prestigious WNBF (World Natural Bodybuilding Federation) Pro Card, Raphael Calzadilla is a veteran of the health-and-fitness industry. He specializes in a holistic approach to body transformation, nutrition programs and personal training. He earned his B.A. in communications from Southern Connecticut State University and is certified as a personal trainer with ACE.
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