Whether it be the sexy midriff on Rihanna or the trim abs of Robert Pattinson, a toned midsection is imperative if you want to look good with – or without – clothes.
The first thing you should know about getting a great midsection is that you have to get rid of the fat covering the area.
Since there is no such thing as "spot reduction," you need to eat well and do regular aerobic activity. Take the stairs, get off the subway a stop earlier, park your car a little further away to burn any fat that may get in the way of seeing your hard-earned stomach muscles.
Now, eating well means different things to different people. To me, eating well means grazing, not gorging (try for three meals and two snacks a day). Making sure each meal has a lean protein (chicken, seafood, nonfat Greek yogurt, eggs, lentils, beans), a fibrous carbohydrate (vegetables, whole grains, fruits), a healthy fat (avocado, olive oil, nuts, fish) and a non-calorie beverage (water, tea, Vitamin Water zero, sparkling water).
Assuming your diet is in check and you're active from the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, you can now focus on what I consider the three most important midsection exercises.
You may be wondering why I want you to do an exercise that tones the back of your midsection when you mainly care about the front of you midsection. The answer: By strengthening the lower back muscles, you will improve your spine posture and indirectly lengthen the front of your abs. Try arching your back for a moment. Do you feel the front of your midsection lengthen? Told you!
Lay on your stomach with your legs and arms fully extended. Slowly, contract your lower back and raise your legs and arms off the ground. Then lower them back down. When you get better at this, try raising your legs and arms up and down without actually touching them to the ground during the set.
I love this because it combines crunching and twisting, thus strengthening two major muscles of the midsection (the rectus abs and the transverse abs). Try to avoid making this a neck exercise: Twist your upper torso, not your head.
Lying on your back, hands behind your head, knees and feet together, with feet off the ground and tucked in towards your butt. Slowly crunch and twist your right elbow towards your left knee while drawing your knee in towards your chest. Then alternate without resting. You'll definitely notice the "cycling" aspect of the exercise as you feel your abs burn!
This targets the "love handles" (the oblique muscles). If done properly, you will be sore for days!
Stand with feet a little wider than shoulder width apart, right arm hanging down your side with a light weight (dumbbell or jug of water). Bend your left arm slightly so fingers are touching your left temple. Start by tipping over like a tea pot as you slide your right arm up your leg and your left elbow towards your left foot, then move in the opposite direction with the dumbbell sliding down your leg. Do an equal amount on each side.
Try doing three sets of 30 reps of each of these three times a week.
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