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Ab Exercise Checklist To Tighten Your Tummy

From eDiets - The online diet, fitness, and healthy living resource

Far too many people spend hours trying to tighten that tummy, only to see the same old pudgy pooch day after day. Where are the fruits of your labors, you wonder.

Well, fitness expert Michael Stefano has the answer. The author of The Firefighter’s Workout (HarperCollins) has put together a checklist for flat abs that will guarantee results. But if you're not focusing on all five aspects, then you probably aren't getting any closer to that six-pack.

The Flat Abs Checklist

1. Eat Right: Find a nutritional program that works for you and stick to it.

2. Exercise: Three times a week, perform some type of aerobic conditioning or circuit training for 20 to 30 minutes.

3. Ab/Core Routine: Include 2 abdominal exercises in your routine.

4. Good Posture: Perform a posture check.

5. Reduce Stress: Relax with exercise, deep breathing or meditation.

Fab Abs If you don't take this five-step approach, you're going to be missing something," Stefano tells eDiets. "No matter how much you exercise, if you miss one of these steps you're going to handicap yourself. You cant take a one-prong approach.

“Too many people think you can just do sit-ups and bike kicks to flatten your abs. Sure those exercises will tone and tighten the abs, but you have to take steps to reduce the fat.”

Stefano says that far too often people believe that doing ridiculous amounts of sit-ups is the only way to get fab abs. Sure, their stomach muscles are rock hard, but they're hidden beneath that beer belly.

“Unless you're already lean, just doing sit-ups, bike kicks or any abdominal exercises will have no effect at all on the reduction of body fat," he says.

While most people are well aware of the need for a healthy eating regimen, a regular aerobic workout and an ab/core routine, many exercise enthusiasts may not realize the importance of good posture and stress reduction techniques. If you're constantly slouching and not standing up straight, you'll have that pot-belly appearance. Good posture promotes a taller, leaner and more youthful look.

Stress increases the production of insulin (the fat storage hormone) and cortisol, which is associated with increased appetite and increased fat deposits, typically around the trunk and abdomen. Stefano points out that the effects of cortisol can be combated by meditation. When you do relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation, a hormone known as DHEA is released. This hormone reduces blood cortisol levels and fights against the negative effects of stress.

By following all five steps, you'll be on your way to fabber abs. Get started with the following ab/core routine. Perform two sets of 20 for each exercise. Rest one minute between sets. Do this routine two to three times a week.

CRUNCH
Crunch Lie on your back on a mat or padded carpet with your knees partially bent, feet flat on the floor, arms folded across your chest (least intense). Be sure the feet are not too near your buttocks. Exhale as you press the lower back into the floor and begin to raise your head, shoulders and chest off the floor in one unit, concentrating on bringing the ribs towards the hips. Pause briefly as you feel your abdominal muscles contract. The movement need only be a few inches. Inhale and slowly curl back down, trying not to let your head and shoulders touch the floor, maintaining tension in the abdominal muscles for the entire set. Repeat to muscle fatigue.

Trainer's Notes:
Be sure to keep the knees only partially bent with the heels at least one foot from your butt. This engages the oblique muscles as well as the rectus abdominus. To increase intensity, lengthen the pause when the abs are flexed to 2 seconds, or place your hands behind your head (as in the bicycle kick). Extend the arms overhead to maximize intensity levels.

Goal: 2 sets of 20 to 30 repetitions

BIKE KICK
Bike Kick Lie on your back on a mat or padded carpet with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Press the low back into the floor, engaging the abdominal muscles, as you put both hands behind your head (don't pull on the head). Bring the right elbow over to the left knee, and then bring the left elbow over to the right knee in a twisting, bicycle pedal motion. Continue to breathe naturally. Alternate opposite elbow to opposite knee with hands interlaced behind the head in a slow and controlled manner, and to muscle fatigue, with full extension of each leg on every repetition.

Trainer’s Notes:
Be sure to breathe naturally and not hold your breath at any time during this exercise. Full extension of the legs will increase intensity (as shown), as will performing the motion very slowly. Keep the knees bent throughout the movement, while you tap the feet to the floor (instead of extending the leg straight out), to decrease intensity.

Goal: 2 sets of 20 to 30 repetitions

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