The benefits of having a strong set of abs and how to get them
Sick of sit-ups? You don’t have to spend hours to sculpt your dream body. A combination of core exercises, cardio workouts and a healthy diet can help carve the tight and toned core you desire. But what are the benefits to working hard for a six pack, beyond shapely abs and a boost of self confidence?
Improved health: According to Dr. Lopez Jimenez, the lead author of a study evaluating body mass index and waist to hip ratios as measures of cardiac risk, “the level of risk attributed to normal weight but central obesity appears to be similar to smoking a pack a day”. In real terms, that means a beer belly can spell trouble for our health - making the need for a strong set of abdominal muscles higher.
Overall fitness: Ab-focussed exercises are key to forming the six pack you desire, but the workout doesn’t stop there. Cardio is also an essential element, burning fat so your abdominal muscles are visible. It also works your entire body, meaning you may find your general fitness improves overall.
Improved posture: Your posture can suffer when you have a weak set of abs, leading to extra strain and stress on your body. Strong abdominal muscles can do your body a world of good, helping maintain a good posture.
Prevent lower back pain: Your abs play a large role in supporting your back and affecting the tilt of the pelvis - meaning the stronger your abs, the stronger the support. Plus, you’ll reap the benefits of relief from current back pain and prevention of future injuries.
Ready to define your abs? No equipment is required - just you, bucket-loads of motivation and a mat to protect your back. Here are three ideas to get you started:
Plank: Lie on your front and place your arms straight out ahead of you, bending your elbows 90 degrees so that you rest your weight on your forearms. Your position is key, so make sure your elbows are directly beneath your shoulder. Then lift onto your toes. The clue is in the name of the exercise - your body should form a straight line from your head to your toes. Engage your core, sucking in your belly button. Maintain this position for 1-2 minutes.
Crunches: Start by lying on your back, with your feet on the floor (slightly apart) and knees bent. Place your hands either side of your head in line with your ears, keeping your elbows down. Engage your abdominals, look up to the ceiling and lift your shoulders three inches off the floor, keeping your lower back on the floor. Then slowly move back down to the floor. Repeat 50 times.
Bicycle: Similar to the crunch, this exercise targets both your abdominals and your obliques. Lie flat on the floor, keeping your lower back pressed to the ground and pulling in your core, to engage your abs. Place your hands behind your head next to your ears, keeping your elbows down, then bring your knees in towards your chest. Straighten out your right leg keeping it off the ground, while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow towards your left knee. Then repeat on the other side to complete one rep. Repeat 30 times.