The “Target Zone” series of posts will cover the entire body as kind of a “How To” on working various body parts. Each week will focus on a different body parts and will include important tips on how to approach working out that part or the body.
The abdominal area is probably the part of the body which is most focused on in the fitness industry. Almost everywhere, waist side and abdominal definition are used as a way to measure a person’s fitness. Thousands of products claim to reduce belly fat or to give you washboard abs. It’s an industry in itself. Beyond all of the gimmicks there is a very straight forward way to work the abs, while it may not be as easy as taking a pill or working out 8 minutes a day, it’s effective and required a good amount of hard work.
More than any other area of the body, the abs need to be apporached from two different angles. Since most people will carry their extra weight in this area, fat loss needs to be one focus of abdominal training. The second focus will then be strengthening and developing the abs.
Losing fat in the belly can be a frustrating process. You can’t spot reduce when it comes to fat loss so you cannot focus on a particular area of the body and cause yourself to lose fat there. The body will lose fat wherever it wants so a person can do 10,000 crunches a day and it may have no affect on the fat loss. Losing fat in the belly, then, must become somewhat of an indirect process. A combination of diet, cardiovascular exercise and resistance training will cause the body to lose fat and hopefully some of that fat loss will be in the belly area. Recent studies have also suggested that resistance training causes fat tissue in the belly to be mobilized, thus reinforcing the importance of training with weights, even if you need to lose belly fat.
Developing the abdominal muscles is an area in which we have much more control over so as we lose the belly fat, a very defined area will start to show. It is important to understand that there are a lot of muscles in the area that need to be trained together in order to have a well defined core. The rectus abdominus is the muscle that most are focused on but it is important to work on the obliques, serratus anterior and the lower back in order to have the most aesthetically pleasing core. This means not only doing crunches but also various twisting, side bending and rotational exercises.
Like any other muscle group, it’s important to train the abs seriously. Often times, people will add 10 minutes at the end of a workout but if the goal is a 6-pack then you will need to work harder than that. I generally say to work the abs 2 days a week for at least 30 minutes at a time. It’s also important to add resistance to exercises that become too easy. If you can do 200 crunches at a time, it’s probably best to change it up and find an exercise that is a little more challenging.
Getting those washboard abs is not an easy process. It takes months and sometimes years of hard work. For many the effort is worth the reward but don’t be fooled by anyone or anything that claims to do it quickly.
Thanks for the overview Ryan. Abs are my biggest goal this summer. I have been doing the “10 minute” after my workout approach. So it looks like I need make some changes.