Despite popular belief, you need to rest your abs the same as you would rest any other muscle. I’m not sure why we believe we should work abs everyday when it’s widely accepted that we don’t work other muscles everyday.
The abs are structured similarly to any other major muscle in the body. The rectus abdomen is (the six pack muscle) contains equal amounts of fast-twitch (strength) and slow-twitch (endurance) fibers — similar to the composition in arms and thighs.
Training the same muscle group back to back may impede the very result you’re striving for. Muscles tissue is broken down while working out. During rest your body starts repairing the damaged tissue and it’s this process that builds muscle tone.
Train your core three times a week and allow 24-48 hours rest between workouts. (Your core is not just your abs. It is the part of the body that stretches from your lower pec’s to your upper thighs). If you work your abs intensely, daily training is not required.
We also need to focus on diet. You can train hard and develop awesome muscles, but if there’s a layer of fat covering the muscle the definition is hidden. Eat a healthy diet of whole, unprocessed foods; limit sugar, control portions & drink lots of water.
In general, the muscles of the core include the abs, obliques, lowerback, middle back, & the hip flexors. The lists will vary slightly from one expert to another.
Try the following exercise to strengthen the core. Remember to engage all muscles in the core:
In and Outs
- Place your hands at your side for support & close to your butt. Shoulders are back and chest is lifted. Keep ankles and knees together. Lift your legs balancing on your tailbone.
- Extend your legs out, then exhale as you bring your legs to your chest.
The higher your legs are in this exercise the easier it is and the less stress you will put on your lower back. If you have a bad lower back, keep your legs slightly higher. If my back is feeling good, lower the legs.
- Repeat 25 times
TIP: use your abs not your hip flexors to execute the movement. When that becomes easy add intensity by clasping your hands in front of your chest, keep your elbows high and repeat the in and out motion.
Most of us are familiar with the bird-dog exercise, but try the advanced version below!
- Get on your hands and knees (hands directly below your shoulders, knees directly below your hips).
- Brace your abdominals (pull your belly button into your spine).This will help to keep your back flat throughout the exercise.
- Slowly lift up your right leg, and your left arm. To begin, only a few inches are required, add inches every week until the limbs are parallel to the floor.
- Hold for 5 seconds and relax.
- Repeat with the opposite arm and leg.
- Repeat the whole process 5 times. (10 moves total)
- Progress by holding it for longer each time, adding reps and lifting the arms/legs higher until they are parallel to the floor.
Tips: You’ll feel the pressure mainly in your lower back and bottom. Remember to focus on your core and keep balanced by working your abs too. Don’t let your hips tilt to one side whilst moving your legs. Keep breathing steadily, never hold your breath.
This exercise is harder than the one above. It will show you how much your core muscles are involved, even when your arms and legs are doing most the work.
- Get into the push-up position (arms straight), with a straight line from your shoulders to ankles.
- Keep focused on your core muscles throughout.
Slightly lift your right arm for 2 seconds (weight is on your left arm and both feet), and relax.
- Then slightly lift your left foot for 2 seconds (weight is on your right foot and both arms), and relax.
- Repeat with your left arm and then right foot.
Progress by lifting each arm and leg higher and for longer. Aim for 5 seconds each.
Tips: You’ll feel the pressure mainly in your arms and legs. As you develop core strength, you’ll find it easier to hold this exercise for longer, even though your arms and legs are taking most the weight. Keep breathing steadily, and never hold your breath.
Have Fun! Here’s to you being happy, healthy, lean and fit!