Archive for Sunday, May 21, 2006

Sideways: Build abs by working oblique muscles

May 21, 2006


Now that we've moved into pre-bathing suit season, the fitness short-timers - last seen in January - are back in gyms everywhere.

Most of them will putz around for six weeks or so, then give up in disgust. Exercise can be such a drag.

But success in the realm of reshaping relies on realistic expectations. If you expect to drop that extra 50 pounds in a couple of months and come out all ripped and cut and shredded, prepare to be disappointed.

So let's focus on one thing at a time. There's no better place to begin than in the middle, because of all the worries in the world, none seems so universal as the state of the stomach.

Call it pooch, paunch or pot belly, it transcends space and time simply because it takes up too much space too much of the time.

In a Psychology Today poll of 4,000 people, both women and men named the abdomen as their most-loathed body part.

Although it would be nice if there were exercises that would magically melt your midsection, there's no such thing as spot-reducing. University of Massachusetts researchers actually looked at this and confirmed that sit-ups don't shrink ab fat cells, ab fat or the size of your waist. Your tummy will shrink only if the rest of you does.

But there's a lot you can do to strengthen that area and build muscle that will magically appear once a few layers of flab go away.

Work your abs at least three to five days a week. The exercises demonstrated here focus primarily on the obliques, located on the sides of your tum. These highly significant muscles often get lost in a crowd of crunches, which many folks mistakenly think are the only ab exercise they ever need.

Want abs of steel? Try these tricks

Oblique Crunch Lie on your back with your right leg bent and foot on the floor. Rest your left foot on the right knee. Place your hands behind your head. Lift your right leg off the floor until it's at a 90-degree angle, knee directly above your hip. At the same time, lift your shoulders off the floor and bring your right elbow toward your left foot. Slowly return to the start.

Ball Twist Crunch Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet on the floor. Your ball should be between your knees. Cross your arms on your chest. Contract your abs as you lift the ball off the ground with your lower legs. At the same time, reach both arms to one side of the ball. Slowly return to the start position. Do 2-3 sets of 10-15 repetitions, alternating sides.

Side plank with a twist Lie on your side with legs bent at the knees at a 90-degree angle, feet behind you. Support your upper body on your forearm, elbow in line with your shoulder. The other hand should be on your head, fingertips behind your ear. Push your hips off the floor, keeping your body aligned in a side plank. Bring your upper elbow forward and down toward the floor, twisting your upper body as you do so. Return to the side plank, then lower to the start. Do one set of 8 on each side.


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