First of all I must just say that I have no training qualifications or anything like that but I just thought that I would share a few of the exercises that I used to help tone the abdominal muscles. When it comes to those areas that we females are unhappiest with I would guess that our mid-section ranks quite highly and with bikini season sneaking up on us again a lot of us are hitting the gym in search of that toned tum.
However, there are wider benefits to core training than just looking good on the beach. Strengthening your core muscle groups will help to relieve stress and tension in the lower back by also strengthening these muscles as well which in turn could help you be more supple and flexible. Working this area will also work your diaphram as well so that you can inhale and exhale fully thus increasing your stamina during sports.
When trying to sculpt your silhoutte to have that tight mid-section you need to work more than just your abdominal muscles, so step aside sit ups here are some exercises that will help you focus on the obliques (side muscles) and the wider core area as well.
Plank/ Side Plank – Where the plank mainly uses the adbdominal muscles to support the body, the side plank uses the obliques. I started out doing 3 sets of 30 seconds in each position and have now build up to around 90 which I’m really happy with. As with all toning exercises, the secret is to do fewer perfect poses than 100’s of incorrect ones. For the plank use your forearms and toes to support the body’s weight, line your elbows directly beneath the shoulders and tense the abdominals to keep your bodyline straight (top image, not my best effort!) and similarly for the side plank line your elbow beneath your shoulder (bottom image).
Crunches / Side Crunches – Another great abdominal exercise is the super simple, crunch (left centre) which like the plank has an oblique focusing sibling (right centre). Again I tend to do 3 sets and 20 reps on each muscle. For both exercises start by laying flat with your knees bent 60 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. When doing standard crunches begin by inhaling deeply, contract your abdominals, push the lower back tight to the floor and lift your shoulders slowly upwards a couple of inches whilst exhaling. Pause and tense the abdominals before lowering and inhaling. To shift focus to the obliques, whilst raising the shoulders, twist the torso slightly and bring the right elbow and left knee together, lower and repeat bringing the left elbow and right knee together.
Ankle Taps – This will work both the abdominals and obliques at the same time (centre image). Starting in the same position as for a crunch with your arms extended by your side, lift the shoulders and lean to tap your right ankle whilst pausing at the top before lowering and repeating by touching the left ankle. Again I tend to do 3 sets of 20 reps when doing this exercise.
These exercises are so simple and you don’t need any special kit or a gym membership in order to do them. But remember this – abs are not made in the gym , they’re made in the kitchen. So make sure you’re eating plenty of belly busting greens such as asparagus and drinking pleanty of water and green tea as well.