Posted by: Moroko | 2007/12/14

Five things you need to know to get fab

1. The inspiration you need
"Any woman can get more defined abs," says Wayne Wescott, fitness coach. Yes, some genetically blessed women have inherently lean bellies, but most women get them through a healthy diet and a little sweat.

2. The myth to forget
Crunches burn fat from abs. "Spot training doesn't exist," says Wayne. "You can tone an area, but can't just lose fat from one body part." To burn fat, you need to do 30 minutes of cardio several days a week.

3. The best at-home ab definer
The bicycle crunch. "It uses the most muscles and targets the front and sides of your abs," says fitness researcher Peter Francis. To do it, lie back with your knees bent, legs lifted and hands behind your head. Lift your shoulder blades and slowly twist your left elbow toward your right knee as you extend your left leg; immediately switch sides without lowering your shoulders to the floor. Do two sets of 15 per side, several times a week for the best results.

4. The best ab flattener
The Pilates prep move. Most ab exercises don't touch the band of muscle - called your transversus abdominis - that pulls in your lower belly. Targeting this area truly flattens your abs, rather than just defining them (the way the bicycle crunch does). So you need to do both kinds of exercises for the best results. Pilates teacher Alycea Ungaro explains how to isolate this muscle: stand and place one hand below your belly button and your other hand behind your lower back. Contract your stomach as tightly as you can, pulling your belly button toward your spine so your hand moves inward; hold for five counts and relax. Do five times a day, every second day.

5. The best food to eat
Protein. In a recent research study, women who swapped carbs for lean protein (replacing a cup of white rice with half a chicken breast a day) had smaller waists a year later than those on higher-carb diets. Why? Anwar T Merchant, who led the research, explains that eating a lot of carbs - particularly the refined variety - can influence how your body processes sugar and may also increase the risk of abdominal obesity.

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageFitnessDoc

Hi Moroko

Thanks for the comments. I have to disagree with some of them though. For example, in your POint 2 you say that it's a myth to spot reduce. This I agree with. But then in your very next point, number 3, you give the very best exercise to spot reduce! THis contradiction jumps out, and then in Number 4, the same happens and we're back on the spot reduction.

So can I just encourage people to pay particular attention to point number 2, and then use 3 and 4 wisely - they form PART of the training, but done alone, will do little to flatten the abs. You must do the cardio training in order to do this.

Then finally, point 5 is wrong. The reason the high protein diet worked in this study is because the people in it were taking in far less energy. It has little to do with protein in the diet as opposed to carbs. This is an unfortunate 'myth' - the reality is that you need both. If you are exercising, YOU MUST HAVE CARBS IN YOUR DIET, OR YOU'LL BE IN TROUBLE. The key is not whether you have protein instead of carbs (because you need the carbs), but rather that your energy intake is appropriate.

So point 5 - rather don't worry too much about this. Just eat sensibly and train dilligently.

Good luck

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