Just about everyone dreams of having a flat, toned stomach. You may even be thinking about the best way to do it right now. You want results quickly, right? So perhaps you turn to Google and look up “how to get six pack abs” or “how to shrink belly fat”, etc. You’re hit with literally TONS of articles and products claiming to have the answer to shrink your belly fat fast. Those “solutions” might be some magic pill, some fancy new diet, or some weird new exercise or machine that promises to give you what you want for just 4 easy installments of $29.99! (Those body wraps that you see claiming to help you lose inches are a total load of crap by the way.)
Now, when most people think of working their abs the usual exercises that come up are crunches and sit-ups. Some people insist on doing hundreds of these a day in a vain attempt to tighten their stomach and lose fat. Those exercises are pretty ineffective if what you’re looking to do is to tighten up (and doing hundreds every single day doesn’t really help either!)
What many people don’t know is that crunches and sit-ups only work one part of your abdominals. Your abdominal muscles are actually composed of layers of muscle, with the deepest (and arguably most important) being the transverse abdominus (we’ll call it T-abs for short). Your T-abs are essentially your body’s natural girdle. It supports your spine and keeps everything “together” so to speak, of course with the help of the other layers of abdominal muscle.
When you’re doing crunches and sit-ups, you’re primarily working your rectus abdominus, which are only “assisting” the T-abs in holding everything together. Essentially, you’re working the muscles that are merely ASSISTING in providing support and keeping your stomach nice and tight, while pretty much neglecting the main muscle that holds it all together. Doesn’t make much sense, right?
I may sound like I’m bashing crunches and sit-ups, but I’m not. They do have a time and place in a workout routine, but in order to see the results you want AND to make yourself stronger overall, you want to start working your T-abs. How do you do it? Here’s one way, and it’s REALLY simple:
Suck in your gut – Yes. I really just wrote that. It’s an exercise called the abdominal vacuum and Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Governator himself, used this exercise to help him chisel his famed Mr. Olympia physique. Simply suck in your gut as far as you can and hold for 15-20 seconds at first. It helps to envision bringing your belly button in towards your spine and holding that position. Try going for 3-5 sets of 15-20 seconds each for 3 – 5 days a week for about two weeks. You’ll likely notice that your posture starts improving.
Even better, with a tape measure, measure your waistline. Start doing the abdominal vacuums consistently, increasing the length of your hold by 5-10 seconds per set each week. In 3 weeks time you will likely find that your waist size has decreased anywhere from 1-3 inches.
This exercise is so simple that just about anyone can do it, and you don’t even need a gym! You can do it on the bus, train, in the car, at your desk at work, in bed…the sky’s the limit! Combine it with a solid core training routine and eating right, and you’ll be well on your way to that flat tummy in no time.
Martin Arroyo, CPT