Women can get nice abs that are sleek and toned if they use a balanced and sensible approach. Just performing crunches doesn't work because you can't spot reduce your stomach fat. “Without making changes to your diet and engaging in total-body workouts that promote fat loss, no amount of ab training will miraculously melt away that spare tire," says James Villepigue in his book “The Body Sculpting Bible for Abs: Women’s Edition." Focus on workouts for your entire body to burn fat, tone muscle and reveal a trimmer tummy.
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Know your abs. The rectus abdominis is the most well known of the ab muscles because it gives the six-pack appearance. There's no such thing as upper and lower abs because your rectus abdominis muscle runs the entire length of your torso. Your obliques, both external and internal, are located on your sides; these muscles are involved when you twist and turn. Your transverse abdominis, or TVA, lies deep beneath your surface ab muscles and functions like a corset, pulling your abdominal wall inward toward your spine.
Nourish your abs. Starving yourself will not produce nice abs. Nourish them -- and the rest of your body -- with nutrient-dense foods. Use an online source to determine your caloric requirements and stick with that number on a consistent basis. Balance your nutrients between lean protein, complex carbs and whole grains, and healthy fats. Get at least 25 grams of fiber every day and limit your sodium intake.
Work your abs. Perform a variety of exercises and keep your reps in the eight-to-15 range. Don't perform hundreds of reps of the same exercise -- this can be counterproductive. Focus on your three ab muscle groups. Work your rectus abdominis, obliques and the often-overlooked TVA muscle. Use your body weight and an exercise mat to perform ab exercises if you don't have access to a medicine ball, Swiss ball or weight machines.
Strength train your entire body -- arms, legs, upper body and lower body, in addition to your abs -- for the best results in your search for nice abs. Increase your total body muscle mass to accelerate your metabolism and burn more fat. This lets your toned, tight ab muscles shine through, rather than being hidden under a layer of fat. Strength train your body at least twice a week.
Incorporate cardio exercises into your routine for another way to burn fat and expose your abs. Perform such cardio exercises as running, swimming and skating for 30 to 90 minutes, three to five times a week. If you exercise for 30 minutes, it should be at a high intensity in which you can't talk. For longer workouts, your intensity should be lower where you can talk but can't sing.
- Sculpting Her Body Perfect; Brad Schoenfeld
- The Body Sculpting Bible for Abs: Women's Edition; James Villepigue
- American Council on Exercise: Exercise Library: Ab Exercises