We all dream of having a flat stomach, chiseled abs or even just as little as having those dirty muffin tops gone. When doing crunches or sit-ups we are determined to see it all go, but are we doing it the right way? Are the sit-ups we are doing actually burning away that belly fat? Ill explain what doing sit ups actually do for your body!
When we contract a muscle repeatedly we pump blood in to the tissue and make it expand which causes tiny little tears that then repair over the next week until it is fully healed. By the time they have healed its time to hit the gym again and work on your abs and core again! When building muscle it takes time for them to grow, so doing an exercise more often isn’t going to make them get bigger faster or stronger quicker (unless you use steroids). So the quickest way to getting a 6 pack isn’t from doing sit-ups every day, in fact once a week is enough!
The smaller the muscle is the more reps you have to do on it to make them work, these are called slow twitch muscles or type 1 muscles. These muscles are designed for maintaining structure and balance, if we didn’t have these you would be walking around looking at your feet all day! So when you hit the gym and want to work on your abs they have to be long endured sets in high reps.
The best way to see a flat stomach? Eating more of the the right foods. The fat that stores on your belly is more common in men than it is women, hormone fat storage is the biggest killer to great looking core. Males produce more insulin and testosterone than women and where that stores is on the belly and love handles, where as women tend to store more on the hips and thighs and back of the arms. So reducing the amount of sugars, starchy carbs, soft drinks, energy drinks and anything else that is overly processed will see the belly fat disappear in no time - If you stick to it.
Another hormone that prevents flat abs is cortisol, a stress hormone that is released though the body and stores on the belly. When the body is put under stress, mental or physical it initiates catabolism and starts a to elevate your heart and pumps oxygen through your body and ignites a glycogen feed that breaks down proteins and turns them in to energy, what’s left over turns in to belly fat. So massage, stretching, relaxing, staying away from caffeine can help too!
Finally, lets touch on the exercise side of things! When doing any exercise we need to engage our core, if we don’t the technique can be poor and we will see over/underdevelopment and the chance of injury. Switching on your lower back muscles is a great start to any exercise, if these aren’t engaged or are week the exercise needs to be done carefully from the start. A lot of people I train start off with having lower back problems, if getting them to change their technique is hindering their progression we need to start on an easier exercise that focuses on the same muscles groups with out relying on the core too much. For example, I had a client who I wanted to do dead lifts with to gain strength in his legs but he suffered from postural challenges like kyphosis, so his back is always arched over, so instead of trying to push him through a technique he physically cant do, we started on the leg press and got his back looked at by a professional so he can see results in his lower body, leg day is actually his favourite day.
Apart from keeping your core switched on doing a balanced weights, HIIT and low intensity cardio program doing all of these will help you burn calories and eliminate fat, making sure you balance your energy in vs. energy out is key to burning calories, say your daily intake of calories is 1500, you need to make sure you are eating that or just a bit less plus exercise. The average weight session can burn 200-400 calories per hour.
Now lets focus on the core training, here is an 8-week abs circuit for you to try
40 cycle crunches
20 reverse crunches
15 frog sit-ups
10 leg raises
1 min plank
Rest for 1 min
Do this once a week at the end of a cardio session or on its own in your spare time! Lets see those abs grow!