Patients often ask me “I want better abs”, “I want to get a six-pack.”
The key to abdominal definition is the visibility of the abdominal musculature, not the strength of the muscles. I always say “You can’t exercise your way out of a poor diet”. Make better food choices, eat cleaner because the idea of working your abs to get abs is one of the oldest misconceptions in training. Exercise “Spot reduction” techniques for the abs just doesn’t work.
You can’t decrease the fat layer on a particular area by
exercising or working out that area. If you want good looking abs, do
a total body work out and be intense about it…in other words, burn fat!
So if you want better abdominal definition finish every workout with some hard interval training instead of extra sit-ups or crunches.
You burn more calories doing interval training – it burns more calories than steady state aerobic training. Doing a sprint program gets you a sprinters body.
Most of my first choice ab work is really core work. Core work like isometric exercises – front planks, side planks and kettlebell suitcase carries.
Cold Sores: Apply a milk compress. According to Jerome Z. Litt, M.D., author of Your Skin from A to Z, a protein called lactoferrin in milk helps fight the herpes-simplex virus and speed healing. “You need to use cold, whole milk for the best results,” says Dr. Litt. Hold the compress to your infected lip for 2 minutes four times a day.
Dandruff: Right before you go to bed, dampen your dome with a little warm water and then rub a quarter-size dollop of baby oil into your scalp. When you wake up, shampoo as usual. Baby oil penetrates and helps soften up the dandruff scales, loosening them so they fall right off in the shower the next morning.
Chapped Lips: Use pure petroleum jelly. No aloe. No vitamin E. No lanolin. Use your tongue to wet them first and then slather on some jelly to seal in the moisture.
Get Ripped Abs: Grab a pair of light dumbbells (5 to 10 pounds) and lie faceup on the floor with your feet flat and your knees bent at about 90 degrees. With your elbows slightly bent, extend your arms straight back so that your biceps are next to your ears and the dumbbells are about an inch off the floor. Now, using your abdominals to keep your lower back pressed flat against the floor, slowly raise and lower the dumbbells about an inch. Repeat as many times as you can.
This exercise will increase your abdominal strength as well as improve your posture. As the exercise becomes easier, do more reps.
Beat Bad Breath: Gargle with green tea. When researchers at the University of British Columbia tested different strategies for eliminating bad breath, they found that green tea was most effective at wiping out the germs and the volatile sulfur compounds (VSC) that cause stench mouth. (Chewing gum and mints actually increased the amount of VSC.)
While green-tea supplements were used in the study, iced green tea, like the bottled kind made by Arizona and Honest Tea, also contains some of the key odor-neutralizing antioxidants called catechins; just make sure you swish it around before swallowing.
To build a better core you need to exercise the different layers of muscle. The Deep Layer muscles consist of very small muscles that connect each of your vertebrae and control the movement of the individual bones that make up your spine. These muscle are attach right on to the spine and run vertically, diagonally and horizontally. You may have heard of the multifidus, interspinalis, rotatores and intertransverserii muscles. These often get weak, especially in low back pain patients.
The Middle Layer or inner unit is made up of four major muscles that contract inwardly to create intra-abdominal pressure and spine stability. Intra-abdominal pressure, or ‘IAP’ for short, supports your spine from the inside in much the same way that pumping air into a football gives it shape and makes it solid.
We use these muscles when we ‘brace’ our midsections when we move. Bracing and the ability to brace strongly is vital for all physical performance, midsection appearance and spinal health and is something you need to learn how to do.
A strong inner unit will a) enhance spinal health, b) improve your midsection performance and c) contribute to your appearance by creating a much tighter waist line.
The key muscles of the inner unit are the ‘diaphragm’ – your primary breathing muscle, your ‘transverse abdominus’ which encircles your abdominal contents, the ‘multifidis’ which runs up your spine and the muscles of the pelvic floor which supports your internal organs from below. These muscles form a cylinder with the diaphragm at the top, the pelvic floor at the bottom and transverse abdominus and multifidis at the sides.
The Outer Layer is responsible for gross spinal movements, and the ones that are generally thought of as the ‘6 pack’ muscles. There are three main outer layer muscles:
Rectus Abdominus: The rectus abdominus is the muscle located on the front of your abdomen and is responsible for that six-pack appearance.
The six-pack appearance comes from the ligaments that criss-cross the abs dividing it vertically and horizontally. These ligaments, called ‘linea alba’ (or white lines), become more visible as you get leaner. The rectus abdominus is responsible for flexing your spine forwards e.g. when performing crunches and also works when you bend to the side in an action called ‘lateral’ flexion e.g. when performing dumbbell side bends.
Erector Spinae: Running up either side the rear of your spine, the erector spinae is actually eight individual muscles that overlap one another and extend form the base of your pelvis to the nape of your neck and skull. These muscles are responsible for extending your spine backwards and also lateral flexion. The erector spinae, although not an abdominal muscle, makes a big contribution to the appearance of your core by holding you upright in good posture. or spinae muscles also help promote spine health, especially in your lower back or lumbar vertebrae.
Obliques: These muscles make up the sides of your midsection and are best thought of as your waist muscles. You have three sets of oblique muscles – ‘external’, ‘internal’ and ‘transverse’ – on each side of your waist which start on your spine and curve around to your ribs and pelvis. The obliques work together to rotate your spine and to flex your spine laterally i.e. sideways and also contribute to forward flexion by assisting your rectus abdominus.
Come in to find out which are the best exercises for you to do correctly to build your core (and avoid injury).
There is a layer of fat that hides most peoples abs. The closer you come to removing the fat that covers your abs, the more defined every muscle becomes, making you look sexier all over.
I have my nutrition and training programs ‘down’ and have helped shape the best bodies of Los Angeles.
My clients are cutting body fat way down. If they want single digit body fat – I can help them get it.
I use the BioDynamics Body Fat Analysis machine to calculate body fat, lean muscle mass, calories, water hydration and much more. Based on these numbers I can help you know how to eat to target your body weight goal.
Example Diet Choice Formula One: Once we know how many calories you burn a day, and I know your target body weight. Then I can tell you how many calories you should consume daily. Plus, I’ll teach you which exercises to perform daily and the number of calories to eat – you can decide how many meals you want—three, four, five, or six—as long as you don’t eat beyond your daily limit.
Example Diet Choice Formula Two: You don’t like to focus on calories. I’ll teach you to eat the right amounts of the right foods, you’ll speed your results without feeling like you’re on a diet.
Everyone goes on a protein shake. These shakes have the raw material for muscle growth and fat loss. They help decrease your appetite and if you did not change a single thing except drink two shakes a day with your regular diet, it will aid in fat loss.
My formula: Eat 1 gram of protein for every pound of lean muscle mass on your current body weight. If you have 120 pounds of lean muscle mass on your body, you’ll eat 120 grams of protein. One gram of protein is about 4 calories. So to calculate the calories you’ll be eating from protein, multiply the number of grams by 4. In this case, that’s 460 calories.
Read my posts on fat. Fat, along with protein keep you from overeating because it makes you feel full. The end result: You stop eating sooner and stay satisfied longer.
My formula: Eat half a gram of fat for every pound of your target body weight. If your goal is to weigh 180 pounds, that’d be 90 grams of fat. And since 1 gram of fat has about 9 calories, that’s 810 calories from fat. This will be about 40 percent of your total calories.
Carbs from vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals. I encourage lots of colorful vegetables and only two fruits per day.
My formula: Add your calories from protein and fat, and subtract that total from your allotted daily calories. This is the amount of calories you can eat from carbs. As protein does, carbs provide about 4 calories per gram—so divide your carb calories by four to determine how many grams of carbs you can eat. In this case, it’s about 158 grams.
Avoid—candy, baked goods, and sugary drinks.
Follow these rules:
1. Consume at least 5 servings of vegetables a day (mostly greens). Vegetables are low in calories and high in fiber.
2. Eat no more than 2 servings of fruit a day.
3. Avoid grains. You can eat one serving of beans and legumes.
4. Work out .
5. Order Metagenics UltraMeal medical food shakes (www.DrJeffreyTucker.meta-ehealth.com). Add 2 scoops and mix it with water, almond milk, rice milk or soy milk.
It’s important to understand that the rationale for abdominal training goes far beyond “looks.” The increased strength and recruitment of the abdominal muscles will carry over into better posture and more body control, both in daily life and in sporting movements. Working the muscles you can’t see — the ones deep inside your core areas — can be a difficult process, but target those areas and your whole body benefits. Not only will you look better, but you’ll also have more strength and suffer fewer injuries.
Here’s a great beginner routine for anyone who doesn’t focus on their abs regularly or who hasn’t exercised this area (or any area) of the body in awhile. Perform this routine at the end of your regular workout or as a stand-alone workout, 3-4 days a week. Start with six repetitions per exercise and build up to 15 reps each (except the plank – you can perform one set and increase your holding time, up to one minute). Complete the routine as a circuit, doing one set of each movement in succession and without resting. If that feels easy, try to perform the circuit a second time after a 90-second rest.
||Single-Leg Abdominal Press: Lying on your back on a floor mat or a padded bench, touch your right palm to the right knee. Raise your right leg off the floor so your knee and hip are bent at 90-degree angles. Rest the right hand on top of your right knee. Push your hand forward while using your abdominal muscles to pull your knee toward your hand. Hold for three deep breaths and return to the start position.
||Repeat this exercise using your left hand and left knee. Keep your arm straight and avoid bending more than 90 degrees at your hip.
||Opposite Hand on Opposite Knee: Push your right hand against your left knee while pulling your knee toward your hand. You’ll be pushing and pulling across the center of your body. Repeat this exercise using your other hand and leg. Hold for three deep breaths and return to the start position.
||Hand on Outside of Knee: Raise your left leg off the floor so your knee and hip are bent at 90-degree angles. Place your left hand along the outside of your left knee. Use your hand to push your leg inward. At the same time, create resistance by pushing your knee away from the center. Keep the back flat. Repeat using your other hand and leg.
||Opposite Hands on Opposite Knees: Place each hand on the opposite knee, toward the inside of each knee. Your arms will cross over each other. Push your hands against your knees and create resistance by pulling your knees in toward your hands. Hold and repeat.
||Hands on Outside of Knees (right hand/right knee): Use your hands to push your legs in toward the center of your body. At the same time, create resistance by pushing your knees out. Hold and repeat.
||Plank: Lie on your stomach. Raise yourself up so you’re resting on your forearms and your knees. Keep your head and back in line and imagine your back as a tabletop. Align your shoulders directly above your elbows. Squeeze your core muscles. Create resistance by pressing your elbows and your knees toward one another. Neither should move from their positions on the floor. Hold for three deep breaths, then return to the start position and repeat.
Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program if you have an existing health condition that limits movement, or if you haven’t really exercised before (or if it’s been a long time). You want to make sure you’re doing these exercises correctly, so ask your doctor to explain the precise movement if you’re not absolutely sure. Then get started on your perfect abs one repetition at a time!
An abdominal brace occurs when you have contracted both the abdominal, lower back, and buttock muscles at the same time.
Here is how to perform the maneuver:
Stand up straight and place one hand on the small of your back and one hand on your abdomen.
Bend forward at the waist and feel the lower back (extensor) muscles contract.
Come back to an upright posture and feel them “turn off.”
Without bending forward, contract the abdominal muscles (like you are about to get punched in your gut – feel them tighten with one hand) and the buttock muscles (as if you are holding in a bowel movement). You will feel the lower back muscles contract (with the other hand) when you contract your abs and buttocks.
Another way to feel the brace is to try coughing or blowing out as if you were going to blow out a candle. You will feel the contraction in abs, low back, and buttocks.
Thera-Band® exercise balls are used by therapists and trainers around the world for therapy and fitness training. Despite its widespread use, the exercise ball has lacked in research to support its clinical application. Some studies have shown that abdominal exercises performed on exercise balls produce more muscle activation than the same exercise performed on a stable surface (Vera Garcia et al. 2000). In addition to traditional abdominal crunches, the exercise ball offers a variety of exercises aimed at activating the core muscles. With the variety of exercises being performed on exercise balls, more research is needed to prove or disprove the efficacy of specific exercises.
Physical therapy researchers quantified the electromyographic (EMG) activity of the abdominals, latissimus dorsi, lower back, and quadriceps muscles during eight “core” exercises on the exercise ball in 18 healthy subjects. They reported their findings in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy.
They found that the upper and lower rectus abdominus muscle were most activated during the roll-out (63% and 53% of maximum, respectively), and pike exercises (47% and 55%), while the internal and external obliques were most active during the pike (84% and 56% respectively) and skier exercises (73% and 47%). Not surprisingly, the lumbar paravertebral muscles, latissimus dorsi, and rectus femoris only produced low- to-moderate activity (less than 40% maximal activation) in all exercises.
The authors concluded that the roll-out and pike exercises on a Thera-Band exercise ball were the most effective exercises in activating the abdominals while minimizing low back and rectus femoris activation. In addition, these exercises produced more activation of the core muscles than a traditional crunch or sit-up.
REFERENCE: Escamilla R et al. Core muscle activation during swiss ball and traditional abdominal exercises. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2010 May;40(5):265-76.
I get this question several times a week. I recently wrote an article about ab exercises for To Your Health magazine that will be published soon. Once it’s published I’ll put it up on the site. But until it is published I’ll share this exercise maneuver with you. Use your kettlebell or dumbbell and hold it over-your-head with your arm locked out. Simply stand tall (think tall spine) and walk around for 60 seconds. To make this movement even more challenging for your core, try holding different weights in each hand–for example, a 5-pound dumbbell in your left hand and a 15-pound kettlebell in your right hand. This exercise loads the abs, core and arms.
Improving posture requires working on your flexibility, checking out your home & work stations for poor ergonomics, and a strength training program. Tight muscles affect our posture, so you will need to use the foam roll on these as well as stretch them out.
Tight Muscle List: The hamstrings, which actually comprise of three separate muscles: the Biceps Femoris, Semitendinosus and Semimembranosus.
Rectus femoris, one of the four quadriceps muscles, which inserts into the patellar tendon, which connects the kneecap (the patella) to the shin bone.
Tensor Fasciae Latae (TFL) on the outside of the thigh.
Piriformis, which is in the butt region.
Adductors, the inner thigh muscles.
Gastrocnemius, the muscle in the back part of the lower leg running from just above the knee to the heel.
Quadratus lumborum, one of the muscles of the low back, a primary cause of lower back pain.
An article on the core by Dr. Jeffrey Tucker