Tone Abdomen

measuring flat stomach

When individuals list the various areas of their body with which they are dissatisfied, the abdominals are inevitably near or at the top of their list. Many individuals talk about wanting to have "six-pack abs" or a flat stomach.

The truth is that six-pack abdominals and a perfectly flat stomach can be fairly difficult to obtain. From a human anatomy perspective, a flat stomach can be challenging to obtain simply because of the fact that the underlying composition and structure of the abdominals region is naturally somewhat rounded. While the curvature of an individuals abdominals will vary from individual to individual, ultimately the abdominals will never be truly flat.

While this is true, one of the the most sought-after personal fitness goals by most individuals is flat abdominals. For many individuals this can be fairly difficult to achieve as the results can be slow to show and hence, can lead to frustration and a desire to give up. However, with a little persistence, determination, and effort, truly sculpting your abdominals muscles is attainable for most invidivuals.

Three Areas of Importance

For individuals that have set specific fitness goals related to their abdominal area, there are three primary areas on which to focus. First, it is imperative that your fitness routine include an aggressive cardiovascular program to burn calories. The cardiovascular routine must burn several hundred calories per workout, focus a portion of the program on specifically exercising the abdominals, and elevate your heart rate to its target heart rate level and maintain that level for a minimum of 20 to 30 consecutive minutes. The cardiovascular program should be performed a minimum a of three days per week.

Second, a strength training routine must be added to your overall fitness program to increase metabolism. It is important to treat your abdominals like any other muscle group and work them for strength development. However, if you have an excessive amount of body fat around your abdominals, it is recommended that you begin exercising your abdominals with just your body weight. This approach will allow your body time to shed some of the excess body fat from around your abdominal area and strengthen the individual muscles at the same time.

Once most of the body fat has been eliminated from your abdominal area, it's time to begin training your abdominals through strength training exercises. It's important to remember that lean muscle mass is denser than fat. What this means is that the same volume of lean muscle mass will weigh more than the same volume of fat. The bottom line is that each individual should only be concerned with their actual body measurements and not their weight. If an individual's body measurements meet their personal fitness goals, then their actual body weight is insignificant.

Third, it is an absolute must that you follow a dietary regime that is nutritionally balanced, low in fat and calorie-conscious. If you are consuming more calories per day than your body burns, you will never achieve your abdominal fitness goals and likely become frustrated. Always try to consume foods that are natural and "of the Earth." In other words, try to eliminate as many processed foods from your diet as possible. Consume your largest caloric meal between 12pm and 5pm. This will allow your body time to digest, assimilate and burn many of the calories gained through the meal.

General Facts and Tips About Spot Toning

    exercising the abdominals muscles
  • Spot toning a specific area of the body for weight loss is actually not possible: When an individual exercises, their body will lose weight everywhere. However, as your body continues to shed excess body fat, certain areas of your body will begin to slow in the amount of fat they lose, while other areas will continue at the same rate that they were at initially.

  • The body determines where fat is eliminated: As an individual begins to lose weight, their body will determine the location where it will utilize fat stores and convert them to energy. In fact, the abdominal area is one of the last places where many individuals see visible weight loss.

  • Prominent locations for the storage of fat: One of the first locations where noticeable gains in body fat can be seen is around the abdominals. Thereafter, body fat gains are typically observed in the thighs and hips.

  • Benefits of strength training: Strength training will increase an individual's metabolism, and hence the number of calories their body burns on a daily basis. In addition, strength training will tone the muscle that is being exercised and possibly even increase the lean muscle mass of the specific muscle. When spot training a specific part of your body, remember that resistance counts for more than just the number of repetitions. Therefore, 15 repetitions with high resistance will be far more valuable than performing 30 to 50 repetitions with moderate to low resistance.

  • The number of fat cells in a body are predetermined: When an individual loses body fat, they are not eliminating fat cells. The only may to decrease the number of fat cells in a body is through liposuction. Instead, the density of fat cells, not the overall amount, decreases as an individual loses weight. This is due to the body utilizing the fat stored within the fat cell as energy. Conversely, when an individual gains weight, their body does not manufacture more fat cells. Instead, it makes the ones that exist larger. This fact is beneficial to understanding how toning works.

  • Combine global and targeted exercises: Many exercises work the abdominals as a secondary muscle group. For instance, while pull-ups work the latissimus dorsi as the primary muscle group and the biceps as a secondary muscle group, they also work the abdominals. Many exercises designed to work other muscle groups also work the abdominals as well. Combine these types of exercises with targeted abdominal exercises to achieve even quicker results. Remember, fat loss is determined by the body and cannot be body area-specific. Muscle toning, alternatively, can be targeted.

  • Always allow your muscles time to recover: It is important to always remember to allow your muscles the necessary time to recover before exercising them again. Virtually all muscle gains are obtained during rest, not during exercise. By not allowing your muscles the required time to recover, you will delay the achievement of your fitness goals and increase the risk injury.

Exercises to Tone Your Abdomen

As stated earlier in this article, for an individual to successfully lose body fat they must combine cardiovascular exercise, strength training, and a healthy, nutritionally balanced, calorie-conscious diet. By doing so, each individual will not only increase their probability of achieving their optimum body weight, but also their personal fitness goals and overall good health as well. Remember, losing body fat is the first step to toning a specific portion of the body. Finally, it is important to exhale on the hard portion of each of the exercises listed below (concentric) and inhale on the easy portion of the exercise (eccentric).

  1. Bicycle Crunch: Begin by lying on the floor with the lower portion of your back firmly against the floor. Place the palms of your hands behind your head with your elbows pointed forward. Use your legs in a pedaling motion to touch their opposite elbows as they are raised towards your chest. (Right knee touches left elbow, left knee touches right elbow.) Keep your breath regulated during this exercise.

  2. Hanging Knee Raises: This exercise requires the use of a pull-up bar or a captain's chair. Begin by placing your arms on the pads and gripping the provided handles. Lift yourself up (with your arms) so that your legs dangle underneath you. To perform the motion, simply lift your knees up until your legs form right angles and then return them to the dangling position. This motion should be very controlled, and you should not swing your upper body or using momentum to perform the exercise.

  3. Sit-Ups (Decline): When using the decline sit-up bench, remember that the difficulty of the exercise depends on how much of a decline you place on the bench. Sit on the bench and place your ankles under the ankle pads to begin this exercise. Place your arms across your chest and slowly lay back. Perform this type of sit-up exactly as you would a normal sit-up. Perform this exercise until completely fatigued.

  4. Crunch (Crossover): Begin in the same starting position as a normal crunch (lying on your back on the floor), but place your left foot across your right knee. While performing a crunch, lift your upper body to the right instead of straight up. Perform all repetitions for that side of your body before switching to the other side of your body. All repetitions on both sides of your body count as a single set. Perform this exercise on each side of your body until completely fatigued.

  5. Crunches: Begin lying on your back as if you are preparing to do a sit-up, with your knees slightly bent and your hands clasped behind your head. Tighten your abdominal (mid-section) muscles and lift your upper body towards your knees. Hold the final position for a few seconds and then lower yourself back down. Perform 3 controlled sets of 15 to 25 repetitions.

  6. Dead Lift: Begin in a standing position holding a barbell with both hands in front of you. Bend at your midsection (legs remain straight) until your upper body is parallel with the floor (the barbell should nearly be touching the floor). After you have fully extended (your body should form a right angle), return to the starting position and repeat.

tone female abdominals

It is important to remember that in order to lose body fat from your abdominals area, you will need to lose body fat across your entire body. Spot training is an excellent form of exercise for increasing the muscular tone and density of a specific body part, but it does not produce an accelerated rate of weight loss for that specific area.

Make sure to incorporate both cardiovascular and strength training exercises into your overall fitness routine, coupled with a healthy, well balanced, whole foods diet. By doing so, you will ensure that you will achieve your weight loss goals in an even shorter period of time.