If you are training your abs for vanity purposes, you are not alone. But it should not be the only reason to do your crunches. Your abdominal muscles are part of your body's core. This is the most important part of the body to keep fit, for every effort of movement emanates from your body's core.
To keep your abs in shape, it takes more than just a few sit-ups or crunches. While training your abs with crunches is good, this is only half the equation, as it helps your abs become better mobilizers of your trunk. You also want your abs to be good stabilizers. Doing a combination of mobilization and stabilization work will help you get the washboard you so desire, not to mention healthy eating and cardio!
Here are the five abdominal exercises that Minna will demonstrate:
Classic crunch with arms overhead as resistance and sit up to 45-degree hold.
This combo trains your abs to be both strong mobilizers and strong stabilizers. By extending your arms behind your head you are adding more resistance and taking away the tendency to pull on the neck during crunches. The 45-degree hold improves abdominal endurance so you can hold your gut in easier and have the strength to stand with a long spine. The key is form. Use your abdominals to do the movement, not your neck, your back, etc. This is why Minna chose this exercise with the arms overhead. Also, to train your abs to lie flat, contract your abdominals inward as you crunch upward.
Pilates style -
Your arms and legs can provide major resistance! This exercise is strictly stabilization work. So you are really working to improve abdominal endurance here. Lying on the floor, abs contracted, the arms and legs move in a scissor style, slowly, as you focus on keeping your abs contracted inward as tight as possible. The rectus abdominus muscle is one long muscle that gets targeted with every ab exercise, so there is no such thing as upper and lower abs.
Medicine ball and exercise ball
Movements like twisting with medicine ball while sitting or lying on an exercise ball (can do sitting on the floor too). The medicine ball is great for training the abs and for sports specific movements that require strong abs - like swinging a golf club and tennis racket - that twisting motion requires strong obliques. Sitting on the exercise ball as you twist with the medicine ball back and forth is really challenging - it is mobilization and stabilization work combined. You must stabilize yourself to keep your balance on the exercise ball and the twisting is the mobilization work.
Ball roll out with exercise ball -
It mimics those ab rollers and torso tracks. Knees are on floor hands on ball and you roll out and back in. It's tough!
Shoulder stance with alternating knee tucks.
It is stabilization and mobilization work. Works the obliques really well because of the knee tucks.
How many reps of these exercises should you do?
These exercises are pretty challenging so Minna recommends doing 3 sets of as many you can do, maintaining good form. But if you are already in such good shape that you are able to do so many reps that you can't keep count, then you need to do more challenging ab work. If that's the case, do a giant super set- doing one exercise after the other after the other until you can't do anymore.
How often should you do these exercises?
You should train your abs 2-3 times per week. This is really dependent on your current fitness level and your goal. If your goal is to build your abdominal muscles a bit, so you can see them, then don't train them if they are sore. They need to recover. Training them every day is not necessary. (Would you train your biceps every day to see results?) Instead, make sure you are doing your cardio and cutting out the fat and sugar in your diet to see results.
Why is it so hard to see results in the abdominal area?
Genetics. Seriously, it depends on where you tend to hold body fat. If it is in your abdominal region, this is why it seems so difficult. You must do cardiovascular exercise and follow a healthy diet to see results, too.
For more fitness tips, visit Minnalessig.com.