Let's face it, the way your midsection looks has a lot to do with how you feel about yourself. Everybody desires washboard abs, or in the very least a flat tummy. A small tight midsection improves the appearance of your torso and makes your shoulders and back look wider. But vanity isn't the only reason you should develop your abdominal and oblique muscles. Almost all upper-body and lower-body exercises require a firm midsection, and strong abdominals help to transfer power from your upper body to your lower body (and vice versa) efficiently.
But exercise alone is not enough for maximum abdominal definition.
Abdominal work is not the way to lose fat around the midsection. The best fat burning exercises are aerobic movements such as jogging, fastwalking, cycling, rope jumping, dance aerobics, bike and row machine exercises.
If you want a flat tummy, you'll need to cut way down on sugars, fats, alcohol and salt. You'll need to eat plenty of raw fruit, fresh vegetables, rice, lean meat, poultry, fish and whole grains. You'll have to cut out junk food and sugar loaded soft drinks. You should avoid cheeses, gravies, whole milk, butter, margarine and animal fat.
If you want chiseled abs you'll need to do all the above AND do abdominal exercises.
Perseverance is all-important, especially if you're starting out overweight.
Kinesiology & Physiology
Since no weight is used on most ab exercises, the only way to create intensity to cause a burn in the abs is through higher reps and shorter rest periods between sets. You have to train the abs vigorously and intensely. You can't do that resting five minutes between sets.
For best results there should be little or no rest periods. The entire ab workout should be like an aerobic workout. Pick three or more exercises and do them all non-stop. After one cycle or giant set you can rest one minute. Then repeat the cycle another two or three times. This creates very high intensity, promotes sweating and fat burning, and gives the abs a strenuous workout. The entire ab workout should not take more than 15 minutes. Train your abs like this three or four times a week and you should receive maximum ab development.
Do aerobics along with your weight-training and ab workout. Aerobic exercise speeds up your metabolism, gives you increased fat burning, and strengthens the heart and lungs. If you are more than 15 pounds overweight, and have a slow metabolism (endomorphic), you'll need a minimum of 30 minutes of aerobics daily. After several months, build this up to 45-60 minutes a day. This can be in the form of walking, jogging, cycling, stair climbing, aerobic classes, rowing machines, the StairMaster... it doesn't matter which activity you do as long as you do it on a regular basis.
If you are only 15 pounds or less overweight and tend to be naturally muscular (mesomorphic), you can get away with 30 minutes of aerobics three or four times a week.
You might do aerobics on your off days. If you do weight-training four days a week, then do aerobics on the other three.
Try performing crunches on a bed or trampoline or other soft spongy surface. Added midsection contraction is realized when the abdominals are worked from a non-solid base.
Hanging Leg Raises
This is a particularly intense frontal abdominal exercise because pulling the weight of your lower body upward puts a great deal of stress on the lower abdominal wall. It's probably the hardest of the abdominal exercises so it should be done first when you are fresh.
Reach or jump up and grasp a chinning bar with a shoulder-width grip, your palms facing forward. Hanging beneath the bar, bend your legs and bring your knees up to waist level. Pull the knees up as if you were trying to hit yourself in the chin. The motion should be similar to that of curling a barbell.
Hold for a moment at the top of the movement, then slowly lower your knees and pelvis until the legs straighten out to the starting position.
Hanging Leg Raise Demonstration
Bench Crunch Demonstration
Ab Slant Board Demonstration
Seated Leg Raise Demonstration
Other hubs in the series:
- Lower Back
Tori Leumas on July 17, 2015:
These look like nicely hard exercises. Great hub!
Rebecca J. Scott on October 06, 2009:
push ups on swiss fitness balls are good for abs too because you have to balance while you do them. Hands on the ground and the tops of your feet resting on/balancing the swiss fitness ball.
TysonFaulkner on September 19, 2009:
Nice hub, I write a lot about getting your midsection in shape and you give a lot of solid advice to achieve some good results. I like the compilation of videos too, nice work!
Caleb Anderson on September 19, 2009:
Great information, I especially like the videos. It seems like everyone wants a nice six-pack yet people are confused on what the correct workout routine is. This hub will hopefully clear things up for people, nice job.
swathin2 on July 21, 2009:
oh eight pack bodies great
Daniel Carter from Salt Lake City, Utah on July 14, 2009:
Great stuff. I now know I need a softer surface for abs work. Didn't know that. Can see why for all the right reasons. Very helpful.
In my reading and research, I've found that healthy fats—olive oil, flax seed oil, fish oil, etc., have a thermogenic effect in burning adipose tissue, so avoiding saturated/transfats is as important as adding in the right amounts of health fats. Is this consistent with your info/knowledge?
This is the year for me to tighten my midsection. I'm 53 and cardio is not fun for me because of a few genetic heart and lung things, but I do know I need to add it back in—at least brisk walking. Love weight training, don't like cardio. Ah well, best to be balanced!
Glen (author) from Australia on June 27, 2009:
Apparently doing crunches on a trampoline is supposed to really hit it hard (and I suspect it would be less straining on the back not being on a hard surface).
badcompany99 on June 10, 2009:
Good advice DS, myself I prefer cycling and deff the trampoline, the trampoline is actually the best Cardio exercise recommended by the Hospital.