With the days getting shorter and shorter, we are forced to come to terms with the end of summer. But the change in season brings with it more than just colorful trees: while those of us blessed with a fabulous midsection don’t mind the barely-there looks of summertime, some of us are welcoming the layers of cable knit and corduroy, all-too-aware of the damage summer cocktails and outdoor eateries have done. So while you cover up this fall, what better time to work on that six pack that’s been “under construction” for most of June, July and August?
When it comes to working the abdominals, there are a few key pointers that are simple, but effective. First, always make sure your core is engaged, or that your abs are nice and tight: I know this seems obvious, but try doing a few basic crunches while your abs are relaxed, then try a round when they’re taut and contracted…you’ll feel the difference.
Next, if you’ve ever heard a reference to the “lower abs,” I’m here to tell you this is technically incorrect – your abdominals are actually one muscle (not considering your obliques, which are, in fact, a different muscle). See, your “upper abs” and “lower abs” are actually continuous, but it is possible to concentrate on the lower portion by doing more leg work, and the upper portion by using more of the upper-body, so making this distinction allows for easier coaching, just keep that in mind.
The third tip is a simple word: breath! People take for granted the fact that even though they aren’t doing some crazy cardio workout that leaves them gasping for air, they still need oxygen! I’ve seen so many people hold their breath while doing abdominal work, and they end up getting tired much quicker – this is because your muscles need oxygen to perform…no oxygen, in a way, means no fuel for your work. So remember to keep breathing throughout the exercises, always inhale when you are contracting or tightening muscles, and exhale upon releasing them.
Last but not least, and this is actually one of the more important details, always maintain a space between your chin and your chest while working on your core. When doing crunches, sit ups or working your obliques, keeping your head and neck stable is very important. I usually tell people to imagine an orange is between their chin and their chest, and they must keep it steady throughout their abdominal exercises. Keeping your eyes on the ceiling while keeping the “orange” in place will also help. This is to ensure that a) you won’t hurt your neck, and b) you’re using proper form and focusing on your core muscles. The goal with ab work is supposed to be stabilizing every other part of your body and focusing on moving the core (yes, you are supposed to move your upper body off the floor, and your lower body as well, depending on the exercise, but your core is driving each motion, not the legs or the arms). Any time you feel your arms or legs are driving your core, stop the exercise and readjust to ensure your core is doing most, if not all, the work.
Check out these awesome sample moves I use in my toning classes to strengthen and tone your core!
Hemingway had that whole “Life starts all over when it gets crisp in the fall” sentiment…but clearly he was wasted because I’m already losing my tan. Still, maybe there is something to the popular line – while we bid farewell to our bikinis and flip flops, we say hello to a new semester, a fresh start, and a chance to accomplish things we didn’t get around to a year ago. Why not start working on next year’s beach body right now? You’ll be one step closer to getting those chiseled abs like Audrina Patridge and Brooklyn Decker (pshh…airbrushed for sure).