Exercise! - Ab Support Group

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01-23-2002, 10:26 AM
What do you do to firm your abs? Crunches, exercise ball, pilates, yoga? Have you seen that weird commerical on TV where you strap a band around your waist and it is supposed to firm you up by giving little electrical shocks? Well maybe that isn't it, but something equally unbelievable.

Join in the conversation. Lend some support. Get some support. Just do something! Let's firm our abs.

01-23-2002, 12:49 PM
That damn machine! PLEEEEEEASE don't spend your money on it! It doesn't do what it sells itself to do HONEST. I am an exercise scientist I know these things PLEEEASE save your money!

That over with. Abs exercises can be really boring can't they. Squeeze up, squeeze down, crunch, plank, balls etc. If we get a good list going here I would be really glad to write them up, with tips, techniques, easier and harder versions and safety tips. I am an instructor as well.

Use me! I volunteer to give away all my trade secrets for absolutely free!

Stef :D :D

01-30-2002, 02:19 PM
What would you consider the MOST effective way to firm ones abs.? I recently bought The Method: firm and Flex video. I have only previewed it. It looks like it would feel great to do and that it would not be as difficult as some of the crunches in my Firm video. But will it be effective? the other thing I am having trouble with in my regular video. There is a sequence of exercises, I am not sure what they are called, but they are kind of a reverse crunch where your legs are straight in the air and you lift your butt off the floor. That one is impossible for me. For starters I can't hold my legs straight in the air, lifting my butt at the same time would be impossible though I could probably contract my abdomen which I guess is what the move is all about.

I am back to my ab video twice a week and feel like I am at least trying.

01-30-2002, 07:15 PM
I am not suprised you cannot do the straight up in the air crunches Ledom. Damned near impossible if you have a bit of tummy in the way. These are ADVANCED crunches and require a VERY strong BACK!

Fortunately they do NOT do anything your basic crunches don't. They really are just a more difficult version (your lower body weighs more than your head and shoulders), and stop advanced exercisers from getting bored!

The very best way to work on your abs is to do the straight cruncehs that every vid includes as a starter exercise:

1. Lie down on your back, knees bent, feet flat to the floor. Hip width apart.
2. Raise your head and shoulders about an inch off the floor. This is your start and stop position. Start and finish each move here - do not allow your head and shoulders to touch the floor until you have completed your required number of crunches.
3. Arm positions: arms in front hands run up and down the thighs, or arms crossed over the chest, or fingers at temples with elbows wide. Resist the temptation to hold your head as this can cause bad posture.
4. Keep your chin up, imagine you have a large orange tucked under it.
5. Now slowly raise and lower your head and shoulders. You should aim to feel your bra strap just about leave the floor!
6. Raise for a count of 1, lower for a count of one. Repeat x 12
7. raise for a count of 2, lower for a count of 2. Repeat x 6
8. Raise for count of 3, lower count of 1. Repeat x 6
9. Raise count of 4, lower count of 4. Repeat x 4

Build up to these reps, it is quite hard to do at first. Then you should always stretch. When you get these good do steps 6 thru 9 and then back again, 8 thru 6. When this is easy add on reps of each. This works your abdominus rectus. The longer, thinner muscle that runs up the middle of your stomach.

Tomorow I will write you how to do the back strengthening exercise that balances this. This is very important as you should ALWAYS aim to strengthen your back as much as your stomach to retain good posture and useable strength.

Ask any questions about this description as you like. I can give you a couple of changes that will make it a little easier or harder to do!

Stretch: the easiest stretch to do is, still lying on the floor, take your hands over your head and reach for the wall behind you whilst reaching for the wall in front of you with your feet. Make yourself as long as possible, pointing fingers and toes.

Enjoy, Stef.

PS. If you have a bad neck and want to protect it the only piece of equipment I would suggest is an ab cage. It allows you to support your head during the crunches. Unfortunately it also takes most of the weight of your head and it is this weight that makes the exercise effective! Your choice, your neck muscles WILL get stronger with time!

01-31-2002, 01:35 PM
Thanks for taking the time to make such a nice post. How often do you recommend doing this routine?

01-31-2002, 07:08 PM
Hi Ledom. If you can do this 3 or 4 times a week you will be getting a gold star in the post!

If you get the hang of the basic crunch nicely you really should balance it with a basic back execise. Fortunaley this is a really easy exercise to do. Honestly, it is really easy!

1) Lie on your stomach, legs out staright behind you.
2) Your toes, knees and hips should stay in contact with the floor ALL the time
3) You should keep your face paralleel to the floor all the time. If you get a glimpse of the wall in front of you , you have raised your head. BAD girl!
4) Easy version for those with a weak or 'bad' back: Place your hands close by your side at shoulder level. Keeping your face to the floor slowly raise your upper body, a couple of inches is fine. SLOW AND SMOOTH movements. Repeat x 12
5) A slightly 'harder' version is to place your hands down by your butt or in the small of your back and raise your upper body off the floor. 'Harder' still is to link your fingers under your chin and raise your upper body and arms off the floor. The 'hardest' version you should ever attempt is to 'fly like Superman'. That is to take ONE arm forward and raise the upper body and arms off the floor slowly. Repeat all x 12

If your toes feel like they are coming of the floor, don't raise your head so high. Your toes let you know you are doing a bit too much for your back's comfort!

SLOW and SMOOTH is very important here. You want to work your back not rack it, so don't jerk it around!

I use the term 'hard' cos it is the easiest word to use! This exercise is really simple to do like I promised!

To stretch you could just curl up like a baby (foetal curl) or lie on your back and raise your knees towards your chest. Place your hands UNDERNEATH the knee joint (sort of trapped between the thigh and calf), and raise your tailbone just off the floor. Use a towel behind your knees if this makes it easier. This should be a nice small stretch for the lower back!

Again, just ask if you want to know more. When I come back I will let you know how to work the other set of ab muscles. The ones that flatten the stomach! and no, you can't have these now, you need to get the first one and the back exercises done first!


Smiling Sal
02-07-2002, 01:28 PM
Thanks Stef for pointing this thread out to me. I've printed all the info out so I can try & do the exercises tomorrow.

I have used an Ab Roller in the past and was planning on using it again, but after reading this, I think I'll try & do the exercises without it.


Smiling Sal
02-08-2002, 06:39 AM
Well did those exercises this morning. One thing I found is that I hold my neck really stiff when I'm doing sit ups. I know you're not supposed to pull up with you neck but mine was really tense and I couldn't loosen it and do the situp at the same time.

How are you geting on with them ledom?


02-08-2002, 09:23 AM
I am continuing with my Video for now. I too copied the great instructions Stef posted and have read through them several times. Though I am not doing that particular workout I have taken some of her tips to heart. I really love the routine I do now because it also adds in some great butt, thigh, and stretching exercises. I am doing the video twice a week and alternate with two other workouts so I have been very good at working out 6 days a week. I work out first thing in the morning and think that one of these days I will try a second, smaller workout in the evening - that ab workout would be the perfect thing. I am not there yet though. I have been seriously incorporating ab workouts for a couple of months now and I do feel everything, neck, back, etc. getting stronger. I also kayak which has really strengthened my back.

I am so bummed right now though. I came down with cold/flu symptoms yesterday and am not exercising. It really upsets me because my muscles feel weak and I know when I feel better and start my workouts again I am going to have lost some strength. Stef, any advice on how to handle this?

02-09-2002, 07:25 PM
As an instructor I follow 1 simple rule regarding participants and flu:

If the symptoms are felt neck up (sore throat, stuffy nose etc) then exercise but take it easy. If the symptoms are below the neck (chest congestion, cough, wheezing etc) then go home and sit it out.

I NEVER deviate from this as below the chest flu/cold infections can be made worse or to last much longer if you exercise.

If you want any more exercises for any other muscle group let me know. Or if you just want some clarification of an exercise you already do. I'm happy to help you make your routine as good as it can be for you - whoever 'you' might be. I rarely get bored passing on info on exercise and form etc. Just as well as it is both my job (exercise scientist/lecturer) and my vocation (aerobics instructor).

Read you all soon. Stef

02-15-2002, 06:11 PM
I have moved on from being sick. I was out of commission for about 5 days, but have been back with it for the last 3 days. I knocked out an ab workout this a.m.

How is everyone else doing?

02-18-2002, 03:26 PM
And hello Stef,

Thanks for the great info!! I'm wondering how important it is to do strength training while trying to lose weight...? Is it as important as aerobic exercise? Will it boost my metabolism? Burn more fat? Also, what do you recommend as a Monday thru Friday at-home strength training schedule?? I currently walk 15 minutes, jog/walk for 30, and then walk another 15. I also stretch before and afterward, but I'm not losing as much as I'd like, so any advice would be greatly appreciated!


02-18-2002, 06:14 PM

Strength exercises are equally important! There are a couple of myths out there that make muscle work suspicious, I'll try to go through the most annoying ones.

Working muscles makes you bigger and heavier!
Well you WILL notice that your weight loss is slowed or reversed as your body exchanges fat for muscle. That is because size for size muscle weight more than fat! BUT you will get smaller. I am a mesomorph body shape (the one that is most prone to 'muscling up') and I haven't lost any weight (I am still 141/2 stone) but I have lost 4 dress sizes (from UK size 22 down to 16/18).

Working your muscles doesn't make you fitter, you have to do aerobic exercise to get the improvements you want!
NO NO NO NO! Ideally you should do both. If you are morbidly obese or housebound how are you supposed to get started on an exercise programme? Well you could work those muscles! As one physiologist once said to me "If you can lift 4lbs of food into your mouth on the end of a fork over one meal time imagine what you could do if you deliberately lifted a small weight in each hand!" Unsympathetic but you probably get the idea.

Strength training increases the number of calories your body burns even at rest. This is because muscle burns more calories than stored fat AND because after you have worked your muscles you have to repair the damage you intentionally cause. This repair work eats up calories after you have stopped working out. This is one reason you get muscle soreness the day after you do your strength training! More calories burned means more fat consumed, means higher metabolic rate (even if only temporarily).

So yep you should ideally be doing both strength and aerobic work.

Gracie I like the sound of your weekly workout. Just a couple of questions (stupid ones but they should be asked).

When you complete your walk/jog are you a little out of breath? You should be slightly out of breath yet able to talk all the way through your workout.

At the end of your workout are you warmer slightly sweatier than when you began? You don't need to be sopping wet, just to have raised your temperature a bit!

If you answer yes to both of the questions then I wouldn't change that part of your routine at all (unless you want to that is!). You could consider adding in some simple strength training work whilst you walk/jog. Carry light hand weights and slow down your jog to a brisk walk but increase you arm movements so's you are power walking. Try it once and you'll DEFINITELY feel the difference. I always suggest this as some of my clients (and myself) don't jog because of our large chests. Power walking is easier to do and burns more calories - HONEST!

If you want to tone up your muscles try out the abs and back work I have posted here, to start with. Do a set of each up to 3 times a week taking a day off between each session. You'll notice some improvements after 3 or 4 weeks.

My final piece of advice is to ignore the scales as your main progress report. Try using an item of clothing instead. You know the pair of jeans you wore last year and can't squeeze into now! Use them as your guide. As I said I haven't lost any weight but I am considerablt smaller than when I began AND even my doctor has had to concede that I AM MOST DEFINITELY FIT even if I am clinically obese. I have normal cholesterol levels, high aerobic endurance capacity and a BP of 110 over 68. I am 36 years old, 5foot 5 inches tall and 141/2 stone in weight. Most of my skinny friends aren't that fit!

Get back if you want any more niggly questions answered. As you can tell I love the sight of my own text! Stef

02-18-2002, 06:19 PM
Is anyone waiting for the oblique sit ups that help flatten your stomach yet? If you have memorised the abs and back work I already posted and are doing it at least once a week get back to me and I'll describe the next set.

I'm thinking of extending this thread to include arms and legs. Let me know if you are interested. If I haven't bored you silly yet I'll start a new thread for upper body work later in the week. It's easy, seated(!?!) stuff to do and if you really want to use weights you'll need to raid your kitchen cupboards for a couple of tins of beans!


02-18-2002, 08:34 PM
I have been patiently waiting to hear the tummy flattening exercises.

What a wonderful source of information you are! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. I like your style, you read like all the best advice I have read over the years.

And for us Yanks, 4 1/2 stone is what in lbs.?

Grace, I'm with you, shaping up for summer seems really important right now. I stretch and do freeweights for 20 to 25 minutes, then I powerwalk for a mile (a very hilly mile) which takes about 20 minutes. Every 3rd day I do my ab workout. I find this very doable.

02-19-2002, 06:03 PM
Sorry Ledom, I forgot where I was typing. 14 1/5stone is 203lbs. And just for being patient I will do the oblique abs (tummy flatteners).

First let me paint you a mental picture. Remember the science here isn't perfect, I just want to give you the general idea of what I'm about to get you to do!

Imagine you have made a bowl of jelly (jello?). Let it set and then turn it out on to a plate. Take a piece of string and lie it across the middle of the jelly. Now pull the string taught. Can you see the edges of the jelly bulge out a bit and wobble a lot? Only a little bit of the jelly is captured by the string! What the jelly needs is a Playtex 24-hour girdle!!!!!!!!

When you do normal crunches you are working the string, strengthening your major stomach muscle. What you need is a way of building your own 24-hour girdle to pull in and control the wobbliest bits! You have these muscles called obliques. They run diagonally across your abdomen, deep down. If you work them properly you will be growing your very own lifetime guaranteed girdle!

1. Assume the same starting position as the normal sit up, as already described. Lie parallel to one wall (you'll see why this helps in a minute).
2. Have your hands at your temples elbows out wide.
3. Slowly raise your body up onto one elbow, twisting until you can see the wall you are lying parallel to. Aim to twist up until your upper body and wide elbows are parallel to the wall.
Repeat on the other side.
Do this 8 - 12 times on each side.

To increase the workload instead of raising your body weight onto the elbow keep the elbows off the floor (and wide) and twist each shoulder towards a point 4 inches to the side of and 4 inches higher than the opposite knee.

The twist should be felt right through your belly button. Like you are a damp cloth being wrung out dry!!!!!!!!!!

Keep the speed down so you can feel every inch of the raise and lower yourself down slowly so's you can feel every millimetre of the return.

The first way allows you to get a lot of twist, engaging the obliques well, without putting too much stress on these muscles or your back. The second way reduces the twist you can get but adds resistance, making the muscles work much harder through a smaller range of movement.

Why not try doing 2 sets, one of each?

Add this to your existing sit-ups and back work and you'll really notice some improvement, both in your stomach and waist. Try abs 1, back, abs 2.

Remember to come back to me if any of this doesn't make sense. Happy wringing out! Stef

02-21-2002, 12:37 AM
Do you know any good excercises that will delete the round tummy obtained from having children via cesarian section? I have tried alot of things and still haul around a paunch! Any ideas would be wonderful! Thanks!!!


02-21-2002, 09:46 AM

Presuming you had your kids more than a year ago, you should do the exercises I posted here. If you have only recently had them then you should await your all clear (about 3 to 6 months, from memory) and start gentle exercises. You may have been given some exercises to do by your neonatal nurse(?) those are normally specific exercises for women with c-sections.

I'll check up in my info and get back to you tonight, but I cannot think of anything right now!

If you already do a similar abs routine then you might need to increase other types of exercise. E-mail me if you want to, I'm always happy to help.



02-21-2002, 06:16 PM
Thanks for the reply Stef!!!!:) I had my son in September and during surgery they cut a muscle so the recovery was a tad harder. My previous pregnancy was July 2000 and that a re-surgery in November due to errors they had made and an infection that set in. Needless to say its been a long road!! The nurses at the hospital did not give me any excercises to do. I basically have been on my own. I am doing a tae bo kickboxing routine which I enjoy, ab wheel which seems to be working on the uppers and push ups for my back. When my oldest was born in July, the size of my belly during pregnancy gave me what I like to call a done flop..it done flopped over my waist!! I need to tighten the abs and I am hoping that gets rid of the flap of excess skin! If you know of any other excersises or if I need to change what I am doing..I would greatly appreciate your input!!! Thank you!!!

Lori;) ;)

02-23-2002, 01:58 PM
Thanks for all the great advice Stef. I have copied all your exercises to a word document and I will be trying out the exercises that suit me best.
Keep up the good work:)

02-25-2002, 10:12 AM
Hi Lori,

Hold on in there. I'm searching my literature for you. I am pretty sure that you should be able to do all the exercises I posted quite safely. But I just want to check that there aren't any others you would get more benefit from.

LineDancer - I'll get cracking on the next set shall I?

I'll be back ASAP with another set of mid-section exercises!


02-25-2002, 06:57 PM


Try here. It has a list of links to various sites some of which may give you some peace of mid re exercise. One of the best bitsof info is how to tell if you're abs are healing!!!

I hope this is of use to you, Stef

02-26-2002, 06:33 AM
Yes Stef - I am eagerly awaiting your next set of exercises!
If I stick to your advice I will get rid of this tummy once and for all - I can't keep blaming it on my last baby as she is now 16 years of age!
I go to weightwatchers and I think the heaviest weight that they advice for my height (5'6") is 155 pounds. At last weigh in I was 168 pounds so that means I have about 13 pounds to loose although I don't think they take into account the weight of clothes and footwear which can be about 4 pounds. I walk at least 2 miles every day - sometimes 4. I go linedancing twice a week and use the abslide every other day and now I have started to do your tummy exercises so surely I will finally get rid of this mound of flab sitting around my tummy? Is there any other way to do it?
You are our exercise agony aunt now Stef! :D

02-26-2002, 07:10 AM

There is only one thing you are missing - TIME!!

It takes a while to get rid of tummy bumps and as you are probably finding out the last few pounds are the hardest to shift. So you need to be more patient with your body. Give it lots of time to respond to your on-going diet and exercise programme.

I hear you when you say they don't take into account your lothes at weigh-ins - but hey! Everyone wears clothes at the weigh-in. You know it doesn't make any difference what they say you weigh it's the progress that you make!

The exercise you do sounds great. I'll get back in a couple of days with another exercise. You should get to double the reps I posted before you take on any more. I'll mix and match the body parts you can work from now on. Stef

03-01-2002, 09:07 AM
How about some standing work!

It still targets your tums and back but also works your calves and thighs. And its quite easy to do whilst being a very intense workout!

1) Stand straight. Knees soft. Squeeze your buttocks tight. Squeeze inyour tummy - get your belly button as close to your spine as possible. Lengthen your spine - up tall. Shoulders down and relaxed. Know relax your buttocks!
- That's your neutral position!

2) Now shift your weight so's you are standing one one leg. Keep good neutral position.

You are going to work by moving one leg. You will wobble, don't worry. All you have to do is stay straight, try not to lean back or front, left or right, to compensate for the moving leg. The straighter you stay the more work your tummy and back get.

3) Raise the knee to hip height, now extend the leg. Bend the knee and return the foot to the floor. Thats in 4 separate moves - raise, extend, bend and lower. Repeat 4 times.

4) Raise the knee to hip height and pulse, up and down, 4 times.
5) Extend the leg and pulse from the hip, 4 times.

Repeat 4 + 5) 4 times. Bend and pulse x 4 and extend and pulse x 4.

6) Rest and stretch. Take the moving leg behind you, bend both knees to 90 degrees and push the back leg's hip forward. You'll feel the stretch across the hip joint.

Repeat 3,4,5 + 6 on the same leg!!! Then do another 2 sets on the other leg!!!

This is a bit like Pilates in that it concentrates on one joint and is slow moving!

PLease be reassured. I know that this one feels very strongly in the hip and calf, but it is a really good full lower body exercise. Stef

03-01-2002, 09:17 PM
Stef. You are great with your info and I totally agree with your answer on weight training and cardio combo. I am 5 foot 2 47 and menopausal (surgical). After my sugery I gained weight and hormones did not help either. Also I have a hypthyroid. I lost 25 lbs and got to my goal. The combo of weight watchers counting calories as points and exercise did it for me but very slowly. I do not lose quickly at all. Here is my current problem. Since the birth of my second child 18 years I have been doing sit ups all kinds at home at the gym etc. My stomache has no change whatsoever except it is hard. I lost all the weight I want to lose and with exercise my body looks pretty good for a 47 year old. But my tummy mission impossible. I have literally tried every machine, floor exercise, video, personal tips know to man and nothing. I still have a poochy tummy. thick in the middle. I really feel that only surgery ie liposuction is the answer for some people after they have tried everything and are at a goal weight. I can't afford that at present. It is so exasperating to work so hard and get nowhere in this area. Incidentally I have no stretch marks and had two cesareans.

03-03-2002, 07:33 PM
Rickyshot - I know where you are with that tummy problem. I think that, as you are now comfortable with your weight, you have probably gone as far as you can, reasonably, with diet and exercise.

I say reasonably because you probably could get the tight tum you want, but you would have to be prepared to let calorie counting and exercise regimes rule your life. At 47 all bodies thicken. There are good medical reasons for this, it is natural and can actually be beneficial.

Sound odd? Think of it like this:
1) As we get older our bones thin (osteopenia leading to full blown osteoporosis in some people). One way to prevent this is to ensure that our bones are subject to some stress - weight bearing exercise - this helps to prevent and even reverse some osteopenia. One easy way to do this is to weigh more!

2) The extra fat covering provides more insulation and protection to older slower moving bodies. As we get older and slower we are more prone to cooling in our core temperature (abdomen and its vital organs). Carrying more body fat provides insulation, slowing down the cooling process and sealing in more heat (like a thermos flask).

3) Also, as we get older, thinner boned and less strong and less steady on our feet, there are occasions when extra fat covering protects us from bumps and bruises which could lead to broken bones etc.

Now I wouldn't advise anyone deliberately gain body fat cos that's silly, but I personally wouldn't fight to get rid of it all. I know I can never get back my teen figure, and I am happy just being able to stay fit and healthy. BUT I know that not everyone feels this way. So you could continue the exercise you do along with a controlled diet, eventually you will reduce body fat and replace it with lean tissue (muscle) - eventually!!!

Or you could try the liposuction. If your tummy has skin sags and folds of empty skin left after weight loss I believe that the surgical route does have it's place. As you say some people have no other course and tummy or upper arms are often the areas that need skin tucks.

I hope the info helps! Stef

03-03-2002, 11:31 PM
Thanks for the info Stef. This is a thing that I know but many people do not understand that as we get older and our body changes that sometime we can only go so far in what we can do about it. I feel that I am at my personal best. I am at the wt I want to be and am toned. I am also in good shape. But there is the tummy the round hard basketball that won't go away. I have no saggy skin or stretch marks so I think I am a good candidate for lipo. I know I have some rock hard abs under this with all the exercise I have been doing for years. I will continue with my program for life as I am very satisfied with it. But I want people to be aware that there is no such thing as spot reduction and that fat, skin and muscle are different things.