Get Fab Abs: Part 1

Kymberly Wiliams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit:
What is the best exercise to work on your abs? Yvette
What are the best exercises for toning abs? Sally
What’s the most important move to do for lower abs? Michelle

Kymberly: Ladies, ladies, no crowding, pushing, shoving, and belly poking. We will get to your Fab-ulous Ab-ulous questions in one bulk package. We love questions that have the word “best” in them because they are so easy to answer. The “best” exercises are the ones you will shoo-be-doo-be-do.

Another way to determine the “best” ab exercises is to know your goal. We know, we know: “look hot.” Let’s pretend that your goal includes working as many ab muscles at once as possible AND enhancing ab function. Then you want to choose exercises that recruit the rectus abdominis (the abs that offer the 6-pack look and flex your spine), the transversus (the abs that remind you of 1980’s cumberbunds that guys wore at weddings–they stabilize and compress you), and the obliques (the diagonal muscles that wrap around your waist like a girdle and rotate, flex, and extend you). It helps to know some ab anatomy, so read this article. Quiz at 11:00. http://askthetrainer.com/best-ab-exercises.html

Therefore I like a pack o’ 3 that includes something that 1) stabilizes, 2) rotates, and 3) focuses on bringing lower fibers into play. Three related questions from our belle-beauties; three suggested ab moves.
1) reverse curl (aka “reverse crunch”): works from the bottom up, requires compression, targets the area most people want to look better (ie, below the navel vs above it), gets lots of oblique and rectus abdominis activity.

2) obliques bicycle rotational maneuver: unless you are kicking your legs around as if doing lying down kickboxing or throwing a temper tantrum, this move involves all ab muscles in a big way and helps define the waist.

3) plank (aka “hover”): requires compression and stabilization and is most like the way we use our abs to help with posture. An American Council on Exercise study has photos and more info on each of these moves. Ok, ok, so the study was done waaaaay back in 2001. Last I checked, our ab anatomy had not changed since then. http://www.acefitness.org/getfit/studies/BestWorstAbExercises.pdf

Alexandra:For me, the most important move for all my abdominals is to eat less and better. And that does not include any chocolate-covered bugs,

It's still a bug!

although I am a fan of the Supine Dead Bug.

Photo: ACE Fitness

K: Do you notice what is NOT on my top three list? Yeah baby–stoopid crunches. Crunch, crunch, crunch. How much do you need the ability to flex forward? Not much going on with compression or rotation; not a lot of transversus action; not a move usually performed well; not an action needed a lot in daily life. (More on crunches in the upcoming Get Fab Abs: Part 2).

A: Nor is Captain Crunch. Or Crunch Berries. Maybe not Yo-Crunch either. I’ll have to think about it while I finish the one I just opened.

It's yogurt. It's Candy. It's So Wrong

Which I’m sure has a very low number of useless kcals and won’t hide my chiseled (with a pick-axe…or ice cream scooper) abs under a layer of adipose tissue (okay, that means “fat”). Crunch-a-Tize me, Cap’n!

Crunch My Berries, Cap'n

Dear Readers who have Abs: Well, are you actually going to try the 3 exercises above? What’s your favorite breakfast cereal?

Photo credits: Creative Commons

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