So how many of you reading this got very excited by the idea of 2-minute abs?! I purposely titled today’s post that way because I wanted to illustrate just how geared we all are to find a way to get in shape with the least amount of time spent.
In the comedy There’s Something About Mary, a brief dialogue between our Hero Ted and a hitchhiker centers around the idea that the hitchhiker has created a 7-minute abs video to trounce the popular 8-minute abs series. Ted replies “That’s good. Unless, of course, somebody comes up with 6-Minute Abs. Then you’re in trouble, huh?” The Hitcher’s response: “No! No, no, not 6! I said 7. Nobody’s comin’ up with 6. Who works out in 6 minutes? You won’t even get your heart goin!”
My point here is that we’re always seeking quick ways to do what we really know takes more time and focus than just a few minutes. I know I’ve discussed this numerous times herein, but once again we are in the season where infomercials and web-ads focus on our mid-sections as the key to our happiness and success in the coming summer months. This is why once again I feel the need to remind you all that excess belly fat cannot be reduced to show your ridged-abdominal muscles hidden underneath without a serious change to your way to eating and consistent hard work to ALL your muscles (including your cardio/heart) for more than even 20-minutes three times a week.
With that said, today I will give you a 12-minute ab routine (yes that’s 10 more minutes than today’s blog title promised) which if done three times a week, ALONG with a weekly mininum of 90-minutes of resistance training and three hours of cardio AND a nutrition plan that reduces your sugars, fats, alcohols and starches (but not eliminates them) WILL result in a reduction of belly fat (i.e., a flatter stomach).
This is just one of my routines that I use on my clients. If you want more (cause you will plateau in 1-2 months), you know where to find me. If you need further instruction/illustration on how to perform these surf the web or contact me:
Perform the following exercises in order for 30-seconds each. The rest and repeat two more times.
Leg lowers & raises
Alternating Bicycle Crunches
Feet Flat Standard Crunches
Knees Up Standard Crunches
Legs in Air Standard Crunches
Legs Out Flat Standard Crunches
Ball Hand Off V-Sits
Ball Side Taps V-Sits
Photo samples of each follow below in the order listed above.
As a business owner, I utilize many of the top social networking sites to promote Dane Life Fitness. Sites like Instagram, Pinterest, Tumblr utilize a visual format to entice viewers to stop and read, and then perhaps “buy” whatever it is we’re selling. Lately I have been dismayed as I see a huge surge in posts displaying women whose abs are so muscle bound that they sport more than the proverbial 6-pack – they have an 8-pack and oblique striations (see photo below).
These are not muscle-bound she-men training for a body building competition, these are young (20-30’s) athletic women who have achieved the type of abs usually viewed only on super low-fat and fit men. Clearly it’s great that women have figured out how to finally lower their body fat levels to such a state that their flat tummies rival men – OR IS IT?
While I applaud these women who work hard and make their daily focus be exercise and extreme nutrition, I’ve stated time and time again that women NEED body fat if we are to be healthy. Obviously we need our body fat levels to stay in a certain “lean” range for our health’s sake (17-28% depending on age and build), but the female form is not supposed to be as low-fat as the male body naturally is. Not to mention that the aforementioned extreme nutrition makes life sometimes feel stressfull — after all, we’re supposed to be able to enjoy good food, wine and chololate (in moderation) aren’t we?! (Oprah says yes!)
Why this is a detrimental trend in my view is because women with body fat levels lower than 17% can and do see a weakening in their immune systems, poor circulation (personal thermostat levels), menstrual and reproduction systems compromised, and thyroid confusion (thyroid malfunction is not surprisingly on the rise). It is especially hard on the body when these low-fat levels are forced vs. natural. What I mean by that is some girls/women are born naturally thin with super fast metabolisms. I was one of those – I was 5′ 7″ by age 15, but I still couldn’t break 100 lbs until I was about 22 (with 15% body fat). But I didn’t starve myself ever, I had (and still do) have a great immune system, and clearly my body could handle it. Forcing your body to have super low body fat levels when it’s not natural creates a great strain internally, especially on your organs.
Now that I am in my 50’s, and while still lean and healthy (19% body fat), no longer sport my own concave lower abs, I realize more than ever how detrimental it is to women to be always told we need to have flat abs. We’re supposed to be slightly round between our ribs and hips – we’re supposed to be curvy and…well…feminine. These uber-lean models are changing what our young girls think about how their bodies should look.
The worst part of this is that 85% of men when polled about their preferences fessed up to actually not finding super skinny or overly-toned women as attractive as someone with a little “softness” to their build. Men want us to be women – not walking muscles. So one must ask, why are we so obsessed with a washboard stomach?
With all this as food for thought, once again I plead with all my female followers and friends to maintain healthy levels of body fat, but more importantly to love your bodies and your stomach in particular. Join me in re-labeling what is attractive and sexy in our own perceptions and embrace being well-rounded individuals – including our abs!
ENOUGH ALL READY! Enough of the constant barrage of ads, articles, blogs, retouched photos, Dr. Oz peddling Green Tree Extract, workout videos promising 6 minute abs – all pushing women to feel bad about our bodies if they do not match up to the 20th century ideal that we all must have flat fat-free stomachs.
I’m not trying to be hypocritical — I offer workout routines focused on abs, I counsel clients on how to reduce their abdomen fat, and I’ve even written in this blog about performing the perfect crunch. BUT what I’m addressing today is that a washboard stomach is NOT necessary to have a healthy life, causes women to feel less good about themselves, and most importantly, is shifting focus away from serious health issues like diabetes in obese children, and heart disease from too much body fat, etc.
Why are we so obsessed with flat stomachs and when did this obsession set in? In the 70’s my beautiful mother used to lament that she wished zaftig bodies were still in vogue, as in eras gone by she would have been considered beautiful for her rounder figure. Victorian paintings, roman statues, even pin-ups of the 50s glorified the rounder, softer, more voluptuous female physique. But not anymore.
I tried to research it on the internet, when exactly did our ideal of body beauty change? Was it wafer-thin model Twiggy in the 60’s? Was it Madonna prancing around in a bra in the 80’s? The answer is not quite clear, but regardless, the pressure is on – we MUST banish muffin tops, have no dimpling, eat no carbs and stay in a constant crunch all day to be beautiful. And for what? So we can be more attractive to men and land that sensitive thoughtful considerate prince who ultimately cares more about our insides? (I’m sensing an oxymoron there.) Or so that we can wear clothes that only a tall thin 16-year-old girl looks good in.
Then there’s the rest of our figure. Breasts must be perky yet at least 36C (at which size it’s almost impossible to be perky unless implants) and hips curvy but not fat. Is it any wonder we women feel consistently inadequate, especially as we pass 40.
So what can we do about this? What can we change? The answer is: only our perspective – one woman at a time. First we must accept that very few of us can have what our “world” considers female body beauty. Second we must focus our beauty ideals inward – our true essence is what radiates beauty.
For me the ideal female body is one of confidence and grace. Good posture, welcoming eye contact, a warm smile, and a firm handshake or hug. There are those rare individuals who think they’re beautiful no matter how large or round they are. Because of their extreme confidence everyone around them sees their beauty as well. I wish more women had their perspective.
Keep in mind that I am still, and forever will be, an advocate of lower levels of body fat via healthy nutrition and exercise. But that is about keeping your body going strong for decades – living to 90 and beyond! It’s all about how the body functions, and lower body fat IS healthy. But you can have healthy insides and still not be a stick figure.
Even working in the fitness industry along side body builders with 9% body fat seeing their deliciously muscular bodies in the mirror beside me can be a hard pill to swallow sometimes, until I remember that maintaining too low a body fat level is seriously detrimental to your health, and once again, my perspective is all about being healthy, while still enjoying life (and chocolate…and wine…and days off from the gym). Heck, I’m 52 and stronger than I was at 20 with the same endurance I had at 30. What more could I ask for?
So ladies the next time you find yourself feeling inferior, inadequate, or unattractive because you aren’t a size 4 any you do not have 6-pack abs, just remember that it’s about your health. If you are not currently eating right and exercising – start! But do it for the goal of a long life, not society’s ideal of what makes a body beautiful.
A recent study was undertaken in by fitness professionals to find out if machines, gadgets, and trendy ab exercises all garnered equal results on toning the abs. The results proved that the good ‘ol crunch, if performed CORRECTLY was the best way (and the cheapest and easiest) to tone your midsection. Here are several graphs which will paraphrase the test findings, and their summation:
Figure 1. Comparison of upper rectus abdominis (URA) activation for the various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.
Figure 2. Comparison of lower rectus abdominis (LRA) activation for the various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.
Figure 3. Comparison of upper rectus abdominis (URA) activation for the various exercises compared to the traditional crunch.
“THE BOTTOM LINE: ‘We spent a considerable amount of money on abdominal exercise equipment to basically show that you can effectively train the abs at home for free,’ notes Stenger. ‘Obviously, laying on the ground doing the traditional crunch is not appropriate for everybody, especially people with low-back pain, but for the average person who wants to work his or her abdominal muscles to get stronger, have less back pain, and get better health benefits, all you need to do is get a comfortable spot on the floor, lay down and do some crunches. It doesn’t cost anything to work out. Everything else is kind of a waste of money from this standpoint.’
That said, Porcari notes that this study’s findings exhibited greater activation from the traditional crunch than some other similar studies. The lesson from that: It’s all about form. Do your crunches correctly and deliberately and you’ll get the most out of your workout. ‘When you look across the different exercises, none were greater than the traditional crunch. This is interesting because other studies (including other studies we’ve done), showed a difference,’ he says. ‘I think a part of it is, when we looked at the EMG for the traditional crunch, we had people do the traditional crunch very deliberately and correctly, and I think we had fairly high activation from the abs because of that.’
‘It’s important, however, to keep in mind that there is no single abdominal exercise that challenges all the abdominal muscles in the most effective way,’ explains Dr. Cedric X. Bryant, ACE’s Chief Science Officer, ‘and the best way to work the abs is with different types of exercises. For example, the plank exercise effectively engages the transverse abdominis, which plays an important role in spinal stabilization.'”