By Roseanne Venturino
Are you spending too much time and energy doing a countless number of crunches to get your belly flat? The time has come to change your routine while incorporating abdominal exercises throughout the entire workout. The truth is, you don’t need to lie on your back to work your stomach. There are so many interesting and less stressful ways to work your abs.
For starters, my number one tip as a certified personal trainer and group fitness instructor is to pull the navel in toward the spine for the entire length of the workout. I cannot stress this enough. This is an immediate posture fix that helps you look taller and slimmer and it helps train the abs as well. This simple move helps tighten the core and also helps the muscles stay in. If you become aware of pulling in the navel toward your spine, eventually it will become a part of your daily routine automatically.
There are a variety of exercises that include abdominal training. For instance, while standing, you can work your obliques (sides of the stomach) by bringing the same side knee to elbow. Begin this move by keeping your hands behind your head and your fingers interlaced, slowly bring your knee out to the side and up toward the elbow. This exercise can be repeated for 10-12 times on each side, or you can alternate either side to complete one repetition.
Another great core exercise is the Plank – which happens to be one of my personal favorites – to get a rock-hard stomach and a strong upper body. The plank has many variations according to your level of fitness. To begin the plank position, you will be on the floor on your elbows and toes or hands and toes. The perfect form is with your elbows directly under your shoulders while keeping your head in proper alignment with your spine, so this means looking a little bit ahead, not straight down. Your body should be held up in one straight line from your shoulders to your hips to your ankles with a flat back and your navel pulled inward toward your spine. Your challenge is to hold this position for several seconds and gradually progress to one minute or beyond. This exercise works wonders for the core as well as builds upper body strength.
The plank has become a staple exercise in my group training as well as in my personal training. In addition, there are several variations to the original version of the plank, such as plank twists (bringing one knee up toward opposite elbow while remaining on your toes), knee drops (dropping one or both knees to the floor and then lifting them back up), and leg lifts while planking (where you lift one leg at a time while still maintaining the plank position).
Balance is another key concept while working the core. We need balance in our daily routine, such as reaching for those hard-to-get items in the pantry while on our tippy toes or bending to pick things up from the floor. We can strengthen our core by doing exercises on one leg, such as a bicep curl or a shoulder press. We must stay continually aware of tightening the core (bringing the navel in toward the spine) no matter what we are doing. It begins with awareness of the muscle groups that are engaged during the activity.
Achieving flat abs is not as difficult as it seems, however, you will most definitely need to incorporate some type of cardio exercise to elevate the heart rate on most days of the week for at least 30 to 40 minutes to make your ab work truly effective. Eating a proper diet with a balance of nutrients and portion control is crucial as well if this is your goal. Understanding the Law of Thermodynamics also goes hand in hand with weight loss and is a very simple theory: The amount of energy (calories) taken into the body should be less than the amount of energy (calories) going out. Simply put, it means if you want to lose weight, you need to eat less and exercise more.
~Roseanne Venturino is a certified personal trainer/group fitness instructor based in Staten Island, NY. She has competed in figure, bikini and model divisions and her passion for fitness started at a very young age. She has been featured in World Physique Magazine and also WorldPhysique.com as Inspiration of the Month for July 2010.