A lot of people complain that, even when they do hundreds of sit-ups a day, they don't have a flat stomach or defined abs. Unfortunately, simply doing sit ups won't give you a flat stomach (in fact, it will develop some parts of it and not others, making the muscles less even). However, these simple exercises, when combined, will exercise all parts of your stomach.
1. The Plank
This is a fairly simple, static exercise, which works your entire core. Essentially, you need to get into the press-up position - keep your arms shoulder-width apart and your body straight, with your feet together and support your body weight on your hands and feet.
Hold this position for 3 minutes. If you feel like you are starting to ache or need to move in that time, either do a few press-ups, while keeping the abdominals engaged, or move onto your elbows instead of your hands.
Always ensure that you are pushing yourself, even with static exercises - if it becomes easy, hold it for longer, or move your hands closer into the center, or balance on one leg.
2. Bicycle sit-ups
Lie on your back, and raise your feet about 6 inches off the floor - keep them raised throughout the exercise. Hold your hands at your temples with your elbows wide out. Lift yourself up into the sitting position, while twisting your body slightly and bending one knee until your elbow touches the opposite knee. Then go back down into the original position and repeat with the opposite side.
This is a fantastic move that works more of your muscles than a conventional sit-up. A great way to do this exercise (if you're sick of counting) is to incorporate it into your tabata routine (in a previous post).
3. The Bridge
Another static exercise, like the Plank, but this is on your side. You still need to keep your body as straight as possible, but you will be balancing on one hand rather than two. Start by lying on your side with your supporting elbow bent at a right-angle. Slowly raise your body until it's perfectly straight rather than sagging down to lie on the ground, and hold it straight for 2 minutes on each side.
Again, if this becomes easy as you strengthen your muscles, you can make it more challenging by supporting yourself on your hand rather than your elbow, or raising your other arm up above you.
4. Leg Raises
Lie on your back, with your hands under the small of your back. Slowly raise your legs until they're at a 30-40 degree angle from the floor and hold them there for the count of 20 and lower them until they are a few inches off the floor, and then repeat.
5. Plank with cross kicks
Get into the plank position like in number 1. Rather than just holding this position, lift one foot off the floor and kick (slow and controlled) across to the opposite side (so you kick left with your right leg, and right with your left leg so your kicks go under your body). Make sure that your hips stay as low as possible, and you are not twisting your body or dragging your foot on the floor. It may be easier to take one hand off the floor when doing this.
After the kick, bend the knee on the same leg and bring it to the elbow on the same side (right knee to right elbow), then return to original position and repeat on other side.
These exercises will build and tone your muscles, but good abs aren't built on exercise alone - you need to watch what you eat to ensure your fantastic abs aren't hidden by a thick layer of fat. The forumula for healthy adults is fairly simple - eat the same amount of calories as you use up if you want to stay at the same weight, and eat fewer calories than you use if you want to lose weight. Ensure that your calories are from quality food, rather than junk (so eating 1300 calories a day, but only from McDonalds, isn't doing you any favours). There are a few extra tricks to help you along though:
- Drink plenty of water
- Eat small amounts regularly - instead of 3 large meals a day, eat 6 smaller ones, more evenly spaced. This will help with your metabolic rate, but try to have your last meal no later than 8pm.
- Eat high-protein foods, such as nuts (be careful though - there are more calories in these than you think), beans, porridge, eggs and lean meats. Peanut butter is good for staving off sugar-cravings.
- Drink less alcohol
- And finally - don't totally obsess over your food! It sounds counter-intuitive, but the more focussed you are on everything you put into your mouth, the more likely you'll break what you see as a 'diet' rather than just eating healthily. If you really really want a piece of chocolate cake, eat it! Just make sure your working off what you eat.
For more information on our varied, exciting work outs in a friendly environment, visit http://www.ultimatekickboxing.co.uk/
Thanks to Joey Camps for the image.