Friday, September 6, 2013

Abs of steel

Who doesn't want beach worthy abs? The abdomen has a few muscle groups that both men and women benefit from toning. When toning your abs you will also be working your obliques and a few other muscle groups depending on which exercise you are doing. There are a vast array of exercises you can do, both explosive and static, with or without equipment. Below are a few examples of how you can tone your tummy.

Due to the success of the member participation for our previous blog post on biceps/triceps, we thought why not stick to that format. I've found a new set of willing Body Shop gym members to model these exercises for photos. We're pretty lucky to have such dedicated members, it's always inspiring watching them all do their workouts.

Ab Crunches

Swiss-Ball Crunch
1. Lie with your hips, lower back and shoulders in contact with the Swiss ball.
2. Place your Fingertips behind your ears, elbows should be inline with your body. (alternatively you can hold a weight plate on your chest if you want to increase the resistance)
3. Raise your head and shoulders and crunch your rib cage towards your pelvis using your ab muscles to execute the movement. (Do not pull on your head with your arms, merely hold your hands there).4. Pause at the 'top' of the crunch, then slowly return to the starting position.

Choose how many reps to do in a set, the set should end with 3-4 reps that give you a bit of a burn, then you've reached the right amount of reps. Do three or more of these sets with a bit of a rest between each set. (You can always alternate with a different exercise that doesn't work the abs). Crunches can be done on a flat surface or a reclining surface, but the Swiss ball offers a very comfortable alternative, so you can do MORE reps!

P.S. Ab crunches are not sit ups, where your chest comes a lot closer up to the knees, a crunch is a smaller movement but can be just as effective when executed correctly.
Dan is showing you how to execute ab crunches using a Swiss ball. The instability of the ball woks the core a little bit extra and also offers a cushioned surface for your bum and back.

Leg raises

Vertical knee raise
1. Support the body by resting lower arms and elbows on the pads, gripping the handles firmly. Your back should be pressed up against the back support, legs hanging straight down with feet hovering above the floor.
2. Inhale and raise knees towards your chest using the abdominal chore muscles to do so. Your back will round slightly and press up against the back rest. (To increase the effects of this ab workout, try holding the knees to the chest for a few seconds on each repetition. For an even more intense variation of this exercise, try the same movement with straight legs.)
3. Release and let your legs go back to straight hanging position while exhaling.
4. Repeat for as many reps as you feel is necessary to come to a burn, then do a few sets during your workout.

This exercise can also be executed while hanging, gripping a high bar with your hands or using ab slings.
Leg raises with bent knees are demonstrated here by Chris, leg raises can be done with bent or straight legs.

Horizontal Stabilization (plank) with knee tuck

Static horizontal stabilization
1. Get into a push-up position, balance on your toes, but bend your arms so that you are leaning on your elbows.
2. Try to hold your body as straight as possible, like a plank, by engaging all your core muscles. This first version of this exercise is a static exercise (A blend of static and dynamic exercises allows engagement of all your ab muscles)
3. Breathe deeply and hold the position for 30 seconds, or however long you feel is necessary to make your muscles really work to keep you flat at the end of the time span.

Horizontal stabilization with knee tuck (or 'crab' move)
1. Start in the same position as above.
2. Lift one foot off the floor, bend at the knee and bring the knee up along the side of your body towards your elbow. You will be balancing on the toes of the foot that's still planted on the ground and your two elbows while performing this knee tuck. The leg you are tucking should not touch the floor, just hover above it. Try to keep your body as 'planked' as possible while executing the movement.
5. Return to the original position and repeat the knee tuck with your other leg. Breather in when tucking the knee, then breathe out again when returning to full plank position.
6. Repeat as many  times as you feel is appropriate to come to a burn, then do a few sets with the same amount of reps, resting between each set.

This one is a great all around core exercise since you have to engage muscles in your shoulders, chest, back, bum and legs, as well as the abs that we're targeting in this blog post.
Jessie is showing you the position for a static horizontal stabilization in the top picture. For a dynamic variation  you can add the knee tuck or 'crab' move demonstrated in this image

Hope this has helped you guys on your way to amazing abs. For more tips on exercises we have plenty of books available for our members to use and our trainers Bruce and Jennifer are always happy to answer any questions you might have. (Or why not book a training session with one of them if you want to work out a routine to target a specific area or just to get in general shape, contact details can be found under the contact tab at the top of the blog page).