Posted by David Zinczenko on Wed, Jan 24, 2007, 10:04 am PST
If you’ve spent any time in the gym the last few weeks, you’ve probably witnessed more crunching than you’d see at a pretzel taste-test.
And that’s a good thing. Working abdominal muscles will help strengthen your core and flatten your stomach (provided you burn the fat that’s covering it). In fact, your abdominal muscles are some of the most important in your body because they help give you the foundation and strength to do everything in life – whether it’s walking, running, having sex, or perfecting your Wii wrist movements. Abs help you move faster and easier.
There are literally thousands of ways you can work your abdominal muscles. One of the best ways, according to researchers who have studied the muscle movement, is with the classic bicycle move (lie on your back and cycle your legs by alternately bringing your knees to you chest and your opposite elbows to your knees).
Here’s another idea to strengthen your core and loosen up notoriously tight hip flexors. Try the flat-back leg-lowering drill. Lie on your back and raise your legs over your hips, with your knees slightly bent. Press the small of your back into the floor to eliminate the arch in your lower back. Keep your back in this position as you take three to five seconds to lower your legs.
Upon reaching the lowest point at which you can still keep your back flat, bring your legs to your chest. Try to lower your legs with each repetition. Do abs work two to three days a week, along with some strength training and cardio work, and you’ll be well on your way to a developing the flat, tight stomach that you promised yourself you’d have.
Need the last bit of motivation to find your abs? Burning 1,100 calories a week through exercise prevents the accumulation of dangerous belly fat. In a new six-month study, Duke University scientists tracked 175 people’s levels of visceral adipose tissue – the type of abdominal flab that causes high blood sugar, hypertension, and arterial inflammation.
Those who walked or jogged at least 11 miles a week didn’t gain any of the deadly fat – regardless of their exercise intensity or diet – while the non-exercisers increased their belly-fat stores by 9 percent. If walking isn’t your thing, you can burn 1,100 calories in a week by cycling 22 miles, swimming for 102 minutes, or performing three 30-minute circuit-training workouts. Not happy with just maintaining? Crank it up a bit; men who burned an additional 550 calories reduced their visceral-fat levels by 7 percent.
David Zinczenko is the editor-in-chief of Men’s Health magazine and the author of the New York Times bestseller The Abs Diet.