According to Bally Fitness expert Kevin Makely, it isn't about the number of sit-ups you do, but how you do them. He stopped by The Saturday Early Show to show the proper way to work those abs.
Here are the questions we put to him about getting good abs:
How hard is it for someone with a pouch to get killer abs?
It really depends on the individual but with enough hard work and determination, anyone can have a good set of abs. It's not magic, it's science.
Is there an age limit? Can a 45-year-old obtain a washboard stomach or is it a lost cause?
Age matters if you're older and just starting a routine. If you're 60, it won't be as easy if you're 30. But it's not a deal breaker. It all depends on your fitness level - goals can be obtained. Age is not that big a factor. I know some guys who are 60 who have better bodies then people in their 30s.
A common misconception is that doing hundreds of sit-ups will get you washboard abs - true or false?
False. It's the sit-ups that build the muscle, but it's a combination of diet and cardio exercise that burns the fat. The ab exercises tighten and tone the muscles under the skin and fat.
What other mistakes do people make?
They tend to do too much movement when doing ab exercises, when it should be done in small controlled movements. Remember it's not how many you do, but how you do them. Also a lot of people use heavy weights when doing ab exercises. The trouble is using weights builds big, bulky abs and that can make you look fatter. You want flat and toned abs.
Experts are always saying you need to diet and do cardio exercises. How much of each do you need to do?
My motto is anything is better then nothing. It's based on the individual. But I recommend you hit the gym about twice a week or do some sort of physical exercise more then your doing now.
What about those pesky love handles? Is there any exercise that will get rid of them?
No, it's all a misconception. The love handles are the last place for fat to leave on a man and the first place it is stored. They are like a fat reserve bank. Twists and back bends are a waste of time. It's all diet and exercise that will get rid of love handles. Also building your muscle mass will help by burning more fat naturally.
Beyond diet and cardio, what exercises will help get your abs in shape?
A good regiment of exercises which I demonstrated on the show. And you can do these exercises in the comfort of your home.
How often should you do ab exercises?
You can do them every day if you want. But normally I say every other day or any time you get the chance. The only time I recommend not doing ab exercises is if they are sore from a previous workout.
Can you overdo it?
If your doing them right, you can't overdo them. But only once a day. You don't have to do a 100 crunches at once, 20 good ones is better then 100 bad ones. You can break them up in sets, too.
Are there any products out there that can help you get the stomach of your dreams?
Yeah the resist-a-ball is great. It gives you a greater range of motion then the floor. It's also better for your back and supports it. But you don't have to have the ball - it only enhances the exercises.
In reality how long should it take you to get killer abs if you are middle-aged and a little overweight?
If you're consistent you should see some results in a few weeks, but real results come in about two months.
Makely demonstrated the following ab exercises on The Saturday Early Show:
- Hands should be placed behind your head with fingers touching the back of your head (do not clasp them because it can be bad for neck muscles).
- Remember, the crunching motion isn't a very big motion, so keep it slow and controlled.
- Elbows should be out, perpendicular to your body. (Makely says it is best to keep elbows out so that you put more resistance on the movement.)
- Place feet flat on the floor.
- Crunch straight in, keeping the movement slow and keeping your chin up. Come up as high as you can while still keeping your lower back on the ground.
For added resistance, extend arms straight up in front of you. (Makely suggests focusing on a point on the ceiling and going for it.) You can even add a medicine ball to the mix for extra resistance.
- Do: Keep the movements slow and controlled.
- Do: Keep hands touching your head, not clasped behind the head.
- Do: Let your abs do the work, not your neck muscles.
- Do: Keep your lower back on the ground so that your abs are doing the work, not your hip flexors.
- Do: Keep your arms straight and pull up for added resistance.
This exercise incorporates lower body and the abs for added resistance and results.
- Instead of having your feet on the floor, keep legs up at a 90-degree angle and crunch in arms and legs at the same time.
- Keep arms straight out in front of you and legs straight out in front of you and come up to a common point and you crunch in.
To step this up one more notch, keep arms straight out in front of you and bring arms up while you keep legs out and reverse the movement. Arms stay and legs move up and back, with everything elevated.
- Do: Keep movements slow and controlled
- Do: Keep chin up
- Do: Bring legs and arms in together
- Do: Make sure the movements are balanced with equal arms and legs moving in together.
- Do: Keep your legs up at the 90-degree angle. If you drop your legs down below the 90-degree angle, you compromise the resistance of the workout, making it less effective.
This works all of your abdominal muscles and helps with core stability and muscular strength.
- Position yourself with your back on the Resist-A-Ball.
- Hold the medicine ball with both hands, facing up to the ceiling.
- Move the medicine ball down and up, the entire time, stabilizing yourself on the Resist-A-Ball.
Makely says give tips for the proper crunch while laying with back on the Resist-A-Ball.
- Do: Combine abdominal routines with proper cardio.
- Do: Keep a consistent abdominal routine in every training session.
- Do: Make sure you keep proper posture with all exercises.
- Do: Make sure to concentrate on reducing fat while building muscle at the same time.
- Do: Concentrate on diet for great abs. Diet and cardio are just as important as building muscle.
- Don't think you can't isolate upper or lower abdominals muscles.
- Don't think that you can spot reduce.
- Don't work out with heavy weights on your abs. Heavy weights build bulk abdominals, not lean muscle mass.