The quest for killer abs can be likened to the search for the Holy Grail or possibly the hunt for a perfect fitting pair of jeans (which in my experience is even more elusive). One of the questions I get asked the most relating to health and fitness by friends and colleagues is “what is the best way to get a flat toned tummy or six pack’”.
Now I’m definitely no Jillian Micheals, but I’ve picked up some good tips and advice over the years on the best way to get a lean, mean, little tum that you’re proud to show off. Experts far more qualified than me may well offer differing opinions on what will help get you the toned abs of a professional athlete. However as a mum of 2, who was determined to get a six pack after having children, here is what I have learnt, believe and experienced gets results.
Fancy a bit of ‘Killer Ab Pie’? My formula for killer abs is simple…….
……..however simple doesn’t mean easy. Dedication, effort, commitment and consistency along with some sweat and determination are required to drive that simple formula.
For most people the desire for a toned tummy is more about aesthetics than anything else, and that’s ok – it’s only human to want to look your best and feel good about yourself. However, there 2 other key benefits to trimming and strengthening the waistline.
- Reducing fat around your core significantly reduces the risk of heart disease and diabetes – believe me when I say storing fat in this area is not good news for your general health.
- Your abdominals and other core muscles are the hub for all major muscle movements, so by strengthening this area you will improve your posture, protect your back and make yourself less likely to fall prey to injuries related to a weak core.
So with that in mind it’s a win-win all round huh, what have you got to lose other than inches. So here are my top tips in the quest for killer abs.
The Nutrition Piece
You may well have heard the phrase ‘Abs are made in the kitchen’. When it comes to getting lean abs what you eat plays a huge role. You can train your abdominal muscles as much as you like, but if you want to see that tone and definition coming through then it’s a case of clean eating to achieve polished abs. The term clean eating refers to eating unprocessed fresh food (preferably organic) in the form that nature intended. It doesn’t have to be over complicated or fancy smancy – just simple fresh food – the general rules I follow for clean eating are:
- Avoid or limit processed foods (if you need a chemistry degree to understand the ingredients don’t go there).
- Avoid sugar – if you can’t cut it out then dramatically reduce it and keep it as an occasional treat. Oh and stay away from artificial sweeteners, Stevia is a great natural alternative.
- Eat lots of non starchy veg, particularly green veg.
- Shop by following the ‘1 ingredient rule’ ie if it has more than one ingredient don’t buy it.
- Drink lots of water – at least 2 litres a day, preferably 3.
There’s heaps more I could tell you about clean eating but this post is already lengthy so I’ll save it for a future post but in the meantime check out this website for more info.
As well as eating clean to shed the fat look at the foods in your diet that might cause you to bloat. You can have lean toned abs, but if eat something that makes you bloated then you can still look 4 months pregnant. Typical culprits are fizzy drinks, foods containing gluten (particularly wheat), dairy, beans, pulses and sweet processed foods. To be honest though it’s a really individual thing that can come down to your personal food intolerances. Through trial and error I’ve discovered a few foods that affect me and if I eat them I can go from flat abs to food baby overnight. For me it’s wheat, sugar, msg, fizzy drinks, coleslaw and red pepper skins (weird and random I know – but then I’m a bit weird and random).
If you want to find out what might affect you keep a food diary and see if there are any patterns to when and if you get bloated or indigestion. If there is a food that you suspect is the culprit, try cutting it out completely for 4 weeks and see if it makes a difference. This is where some of that dedication and will power comes in that I spoke about earlier, but remember – abs or no abs, if it’s causing your body to react badly then it can be doing your heath no good.
The other Piece
If you eat like a saint and train like an athlete but still have a jiggle round the middle then the reason could fall in the ‘other’ piece of my Killer Ab Pie. This is the bucket where I’ve thrown all the other bits and pieces that can cause your body to be a fat storing sanctuary rather than a fat burning machine. I’m talking hormones, insulin, genetics, poor thyroid health and stress. The book ‘Accidentally Overweight’ that I posted a bIog about last week (see post ‘Not just another diet book’) talks about these in more depth and gives good solutions to combat these issues. Stress can play a key role in whether fat sticks to, or slips off your core. Stress causes the hormone cortisol to increase which has the side effect of prompting the body to store more fat around the abdomen. If you lead a stressful lifestyle or frequently feel stressed out then look into ways to decrease the stress in your life and chill out, not only will it result in a weight off your mind it could also be a weight off your waist.
Check out this article on the oxygen website for more info the effect stress has on your metabolism and hints on how to find your inner zen.
The Training piece
My favourite piece of the ‘Killer ab pie’ is all about how you train and workout. There are heaps of ways you can work your core, too many to go into in this post. What I will say is that when it comes to training your abs they are not made by crunches alone. I see sooooo many people doing the obligatory crunches at the end of their workouts, sometimes oodles of them, mostly to little or no effect. I rarely do a crunch. For me the best way to train abs is a combination of
- Functional movements where you have to hold your core strong to do the movement like free standing weights.
- Pilates style exercises that work the deeper muscles whilst concentrating on your posture.
- Exercises that have a balance component – it’s pretty much impossible to balance without using your core.
- Powerful dynamic exercises where your core is the hub from which you move.
So as an added bonus I’ve put together a simple little workout that includes exercises that showcase all of those points above. Have a go and see what you think.
Killer abs workout
Complete 3 rounds of the 5 following exercises.
- Windmill – 10 to 15 reps each side. (Use either a dumbbell or kettle bell between 3 to 6kg) Hold weight straight overhead with 1 arm locked. Stand with feet a bit wider than hip width apart and point your feet to the diagonal away from the arm holding the weight. Tip at waist and touch toe with opposite hand holding weight strong and tight overhead like a windmill.
- Swiss Ball Plank Knee ins – 10 to 16 reps alternating. Make a plank on the swiss ball keeping the core tight. Alternate lifting each leg, squeezing the glute then bring the knee in, extend the leg again then lower. Maintain level hips throughout.
- Ball Slams – 10 to 15 reps. (Use a 2 to 5kg medicine ball – make sure you test the rebound first so you know how high it bounces). Hold ball overhead and slam/throw to the floor, catch it and repeat.
- Standing Oblique twists – 10 to 15 reps each side. Stand tall with feet a bit wider than hip width apart with one hand on hip and the other other stretched overhead. Slowly balance on one leg to bring the opposite knee and elbow to touch. Keep slow and controlled throughout the movement.
- Med Ball Woodchops – 10 to 15 reps each side. (Use a 2 to 5kg medicine ball). Hold med ball in front with both hands. Squat down and bring the ball low across your body then diagonally bring it up across the body until it’s overhead on the opposite side, pivoting on the opposite foot.
So that’s my tips and comments on the quest for killer abs. Let me know what you think. Apologies for the infrequency of my posts, life is a bit crazy busy right now but I wouldn’t have it any other way :0)