You want six-pack abs? (Who doesn’t?) A washboard stomach you’ll be proud to show off on the beach? (Obviously!) Then for the time being, forget about the crunches, the sit-ups, the pilates, the exercise balls, and all the other ab exercises.
"You can do 1,000 sit-ups and that won’t get you six-pack abs," said Nicki Anderson, a personal trainer in Naperville, Ill., and the IDEA Health and Fitness Association’s Trainer of the Year for 2008-2009. “It’s a matter of losing the body fat.”
Eating right, rather than doing ab exercises, is the first step toward obtaining that six-pack. Anderson’s first rule of healthy eating: “Stay away from any and all processed foods.” Other weight-loss tips:
- Fruits and vegetables should be the cornerstone of your healthy diet. They’re low in calories but provide bulk to keep you from feeling hungry.
- Protein should come in the form of lean meats and fish. Choose beef or pork cuts that have “loin” in their name, and remove the skin from poultry.
- Whole grains are much better for you than processed flour or grains because they contain more fiber and nutrients.
- Don’t avoid dairy, which provides needed calcium and nutrients. Instead, consume dairy products that are very low-fat or fat-free.
- When cooking, use olive oil or vegetable oil rather than solid fat products like lard. That way, you’re replacing harmful saturated fats with unsaturated fats.
- Drink lots of water, rather than sugary fruit juices or soft drinks.
- Monitor your portion sizes, and cut back if you normally eat large portions of food.
- Stop snacking on high-calorie items like cake, cookies, or potato chips.
If you’re dead-set on doing ab exercises to make sure those muscles look good once they’re unveiled by your melting flab, keep in mind that some workouts are better than others.
The ab exercises recommended by the American College of Exercise include:
- Pedal motion. Lie flat on the floor, and put your hands beside your head. Start with your knees elevated at about a 45-degree angle. Begin a bicycle pedal motion in which you touch your left elbow to your right knee and vice versa, crunching your abs with each movement.
- An ab challenge. This requires a special piece of gym equipment with extended arms also known as a “Captain’s Chair.” You start by gripping hand-holds on both arms of the chair and letting your legs dangle below. Lift your knees up close to your chest and then lower them, being sure to carefully control the entire movement.
- Exercise ball. While sitting on an exercise ball, feet firmly on the floor, walk your body forward, positioning the ball into your lower back. Cross your arms over your chest and tuck in your chin about a fist’s-width from your chest. Contract your abs to raise your torso, bringing it up no more than 45 degrees from your thighs. Bringing your feet closer together will force you to work your obliques by challenging your balance.