That time of year is coming when the gym rush hits. Summer is just around the corner, and the chatter about diets and exercise begins. You start hearing all the talks and theories on the best ab exercises and ways to shrink that belly, from people claiming they do 10,000 sit ups a day to never-ending leg lifts. Everyone feels the crunch this time of year, yet a crunch is the last thing you should be doing to slim down your waist line.
That's not to say that you shouldn't be doing abdominal exercises at all- they should be incorporated into your weekly workouts- but there is a big misconception about how to get those slim, toned, and sexy abs that every woman dreams about. Defined abs are the gold standard for looking and feeling healthy. When a bathing suit or a fitted dress comes out of the closet, a flat stomach can be the difference between being comfortable and putting on a pair of Spanx!
You can have the most developed, muscular, healthy abdominals on the planet, but if there is fat covering them, no one will ever know. You need to lose fat, increase your metabolism, and build muscle. This is what gives you that toned midsection that we all crave.
Here's how to take your cardio and strength training sessions and combine them into one high-intensity, fat-burning, muscle-building, supercharged workout!
1. Think about your body in three groups. Upper body pushers (i.e. pushups, dumbbell presses), upper body pullers (i.e. rows, pull-ups) and legs (i.e. squats, lunges, step-ups). The key of the routine is to go from one section to the other without stopping. This will allow the muscles to constantly be firing while resting the ones in the other groups.
2. Repeat 10-20 times so that by the end of the set you are significantly challenged. If you can knock out 20 reps without feeling that burn, increase the difficulty by adding weights or resistance bands. For legs, you can have the reps be on the upper end of the spectrum due to the size and amount of muscles in your lower extremities.
3. Completing the push, pull, and leg exercises without stopping counts as one round. Every 2-4 rounds, switch up the specific exercise for the body part. If you were doing squats for 3 rounds, go to step-ups or lunges for the next few rounds. The first goal is to work up to 10 rounds. This non-stop workout will have your heart rate soaring, muscles pumping, and lungs working. Don’t forget a towel, because you will be sweating! Stay focused and keep your intensity up throughout the workout. Save the small talk for when you are finished.
If you wan to push even harder, there are some ways to take your workouts to the next level. Here are some ways to raise the intensity:
-Add jump rope, hill climbers, jumping jacks, or high knees for 30-90 seconds between every 2-3 rounds. More daring exercisers can add these between every round.
-Try and pack in as many rounds as you can within a certain allotted time (30-45 minutes) and try and compete with your performance from previous workouts.
-Try to decrease the amount of time it takes to finish 10-15 rounds. Again, time yourself and try to beat your previous workout as time goes on.
-Add a few rounds of triceps, biceps, calf raises, and ball crunches at the end of the workout to complete the full-body program.
-Make sure to monitor your effort, as you will need to add more resistance as you get stronger.
And remember: eat smart, work hard and stay motivated. You'll have beautiful abs in no time!
Joseph Ciccone, DPT, CSCS, is a physical therapist at Columbia Doctors Eastside Sports Therapy. He received his clinical Doctorate in physical therapy from NYU. Dr. Ciccone’s training provided him with knowledge of biomechanics, kinesiology, and injury pathology, which has allowed him to specialize in the evaluation, treatment and prevention of orthopedic and sports-related injuries. With a passion for fitness and sports performance, he also received his certification as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist. He has performed extensive rehabilitation and training sessions that have been catered to the needs of his clients in their home settings. An accomplished athlete, Joe played 4 years of Division I baseball at Fordham University where he was named to the Academic All-American Team. He also practices Mixed Martial Arts and is a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.