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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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?
re-started WW on 10th Aug - 16 stone 9.5lbs
joined Veggies winter solstice challenge to reach 14 stone (196lbs)
Last edited by Smiling Sal : 02-08-2002 at 06:41 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?
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).
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!
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
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!
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.