"There's so much hype around abs that people are sometimes blinded by the impossible claims," says Annick Robinson, fitness instructor and trainer. "Getting a 6-pack requires a strict strategy that involves extreme dedication, a very strict diet and extensive training. It also requires a dramatic reduction of body fat that makes it unrealistic and frankly unhealthy for most people. As a matter of fact, it's more important to train your entire core — everything around your waist — and not just your abs, so that you have a strong, toned midsection that you can maintain for the long-term."
And if you think strengthening your core is all about crunches, you're only partially right: To combat the dreaded muffin top and love handles, you need to lose some body fat by making better dietary choices and increase your lean muscle mass by working your obliques, transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis muscles. You should also include some functional training in your routine so that you're more stabilized and supported in your everyday activities. Functional training makes your body smarter, not just stronger.
Sounds confusing? It can be but Annick Robinson explains the core muscles groups and walks us through a set of exercises that target on each one.
Before you start, keep the following tips in mind:
- Keep your chin up and your neck long for each exercise.
- Focus on the muscle you're working — you'll give it a better workout that way.
- Remember to stretch the muscle you've worked.
- Go at your own pace. If you're in pain, stop the exercise.
- Remember that your core muscles need to be rested after a hard workout for at least 24 hours of recovery, just like any other muscle.
- See your doctor before starting any exercise program — including this one — if you haven't exercised in a while (or ever) or have back problems.
Let's get going!