Fitness & Nutrition

The Shocking Secret to Great Abs

If you’ve followed my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a huge fan of abs.  While a lot of people despise crunches and planks, I absolutely love them.  I know, I’m weird.

That being said, I really haven’t trained my abs exclusively in close to a year.  Maybe a total of 30 minutes a week, and it’s not because I don’t want to.  It’s simply because my current exercise routine seems to be even more effective at toning my abs than exercises I’ve posted in the past.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love those exercises and I have come to the conclusion that I am at a point in which, if I want to build my abdominal muscles, I will perform these exercises.  However, the secret to great abs isn’t a variation of crunches at all.

Abs are made in the KITCHEN!  Don’t worry, this isn’t the secret you’re waiting for!  But I have to preface it with this very point.  You are what you eat.  A clean diet full of lean proteins, balance in vegetables and fruit, and moderate, but healthy carbs is key.  You will never see abdominal muscles unless you’ve reached a certain percentage of body fat, which varies from individual to individual, according to size and build.

  • Belly fat will diminish when you decrease your caloric intake and increase your caloric burn.  AKA, when you are burning more calories than you are consuming, you will see a decrease in belly fat.
  • Although “spot training,” (focusing on one muscle or muscle group) can prove successful, it is not an efficient way to exercise.  Women are built to burn fat from the top down.  Yup!  I guess that’s why I said adios to my chest a year ago! 🙂
  • Personally, from research I’ve read, I would never perform ab exercises with weight.  It has been proven through various studies that you will add bulk to your waist this way.  To get a slim center, abs should be performed with your own body weight, and shockingly, an excess of ab work can actually increase your midsection.  With muscle, yes, but still…if you are trying to avoid that brick house look, moderation is key with specific ab exercises.  Feel free to burn your abs up one day, but make sure the next is focused on more of an overall core engaging exercise.

Which brings us to the most fantastic part of this piece.  The secret to great abs.

Oh the SUSPENSE!!!!

The secret to great abs is squats and deadlifts!

Are you shocked?  I read about it in an article by the absolutely fascinating Bret Contreras, so I began to read more.  At first I was thinking, “no way…he’s crushing my ability and love of burning up my abs,” but then I started thinking…my husband keeps telling me that I’m in better shape than when we met.  I’ve had 2 pregnancies and 2 c-sections since we’ve met.  And in an absolutely humble way, I agree that I am in the best shape of my life.  He did tell me to stop doing so much ab work and I told him that I honestly haven’t been hardly at all over the past year.  The biggest change I made was swallowing my fear and joining a bootcamp class that meets twice a week at the y.  This class is led by the most fantastic trainer.  We refer to her as the “sugar coated butt kicker.”  She is the only one that can push me to the point that I feel like I am either going to tap out or throw up, then smiles, and everyone in the class feels motivated to keep going.  Her workouts are always different, but all abound in plyometrics, high intensity interval training, and weighted bar exercises.  For example, yesterday was called “crazy 8’s” in which you perform 8 reps of each exercise for 8 minutes.  The first round went like this:

  • Heavy Bar Weighted Squats
  • Heavy Bar Weighted Deadlifts
  • Box Jumps

None of that at first glance appears to be an abdominal exercise, right?  WRONG!!!

When you perform squats and deadlifts, you are engaging your abs.  Studies show that you are engaging your rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, but not to such a degree that it will thicken your waist.  Just enough to shape and define!  The best part is that when you properly perform these exercises, you are bracing your muscle that strengthens your lower back…an abdominal muscle most of us never think about or read about…the muscle that determines the thickness of your waist (from front to back, not side to side…that’s your hip width,) your transverse abdominis, also known as your TVA.

So with that intense workout, I managed to keep my heart rate at 170, which is my fitness zone, for all 8 minutes, shape my glutes and hams to the point that sitting down today is an oh so friendly reminder of yesterday, and all the while working my abs without specifically setting aside time to do so.

abs without abs

Forget the semi-awkard pose of myself and my husband on the beach last week, but the two of us together are notorious for taking the WORSE photographs together!  It’s almost become a running joke.  However, I wanted to point out that, although I’ve had more prominent abs in the past, I am most happy with the ones I am sporting currently, and especially because I didn’t have to ly on a floor for hours a week to create them.

So there you have it.  Squats and Deadlifts.  Bonus:  great butt and legs.

Try it!


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