by Janelle Pavao
It's always good to have a strong, healthy core. However, let's face it, most of us just really like the look of having a flat midriff. Believe it or not, this is actually not something that is very hard to achieve.
When looking for that flat, toned stomach, it is actually a lot more important to keep up on your cardio and diet than actually exercising your core. We naturally have more muscular abs than one would think, but they're always hiding under that extra layer of fat.
Healthier eating (eating lean meats, cutting down on fatty foods such as dairy and sugars, and upping your vegetable intake) is a great first step to great looking abs. Cardio, however, is the key. The amount of time you spend doing cardio will be directly proportional to how much fat you burn off your tummy.
Your cardio does not necessarily need to be intense. It's better to start off slow and stick with it. Even something simple like walking for an hour everyday is a great way to burn fat.
Once you've started with some diet changes and cardio, it's time to kick in the abs exercises.
The plank is a really great core workout. Mostly, the plank targets your abdominal muscles, but it also hits your shoulders, back, quads, and glutes.
Start face down, with your toes on the floor, like you are getting ready to do a pushup.
Place your elbows directly under your shoulders, making a straight line, and place your palms flat on the ground. Your forearms should be straight out in front of you, so that your arms are making a right angle.
Once you are in position, lift your body up, balancing on your toes and forearms. Engage your core and your glutes, keeping your back as flat as possible. This is a half plank.
For a more intense plank, place your palms where your elbows were before, making a pushup position. Be sure that your body is lined up correctly. Your arms should be extending in a straight line from your shoulders. Your abs should be engaged, and your back should be at a flat, clean slope to your ankles. No sagging. Hold the plank for at least 30 seconds at a time.
For a sideways plank, you need to be extra careful to use proper form.
Lay on your side, propping yourself up with one elbow. Your elbow needs to be directly under your shoulder. Be careful not to let it be pulled back or pushed forward too far, making it awkward for your body.
Your forearm should extend straight forward, with your palm flat on the ground, making a ninety degree angle with your body. Be careful not to adjust your arm too far to the left or right. You can injure your shoulder that way.
Stack one foot on top of the other.
Once in position, lift up, engaging your core and your glutes. At first it may feel a bit awkward, because one of your feet is sitting on top of the other, but be careful not to twist or adjust your body. Use your bottom foot to ground you, and try not to send any weight to the top foot.
Make sure you stay in a straight line. You'll be tempted to make it a little easier by letting your hips sag down towards the floor. If you do this, you're cheating yourself out of the exercise. Make sure you keep your head in a straight line with your body, not pushed forward like in the photo.
Lay flat on the floor with your palms facing down. Lift your torso and your legs off the ground, making a V shape. To make it easier, you can bend your knees, but keep the V shape with your thighs and torso. Be sure to have your abs engaged and exhale deeply. Lay back down on the ground, and repeat this motion for your reps.
While in the V position, (your torso and legs lifted) hold a five pound weight in your hand. Twist from the waist to the right, then across your body to the left then back the the center. Repeat this motion to continue your reps. This is for your oblique muscles.
The infamous crunches. Crunches are one of the best abdominal workouts you can do. They tone your tummy and make you sore incredibly quickly.
Lay on your back with your feet flat on the floor and your knees at a ninety degree angle from your body. Ideally, your hands should be flat at your side with your palms facing down. For an easier motion you can also put your hands behind your head.
Lift your upper torso, one vertebrae at a time, engaging your abdominal muscles until your abs are fully tensed. Hold for two seconds, then lay back down.
Lay on your back with your knees bent, like you are going to do a traditional crunch. Instead of crunching your body toward your knees, twist across your body to one side, engaging your obliques. You should feel like you are pushing your back down into the ground while you tense your abdominals.
Hold your muscles engaged for two seconds before releasing and returning to your original position. Repeat on the other side for one rep.
Lay flat on your back with your right arm by your side and left arm raised above your head. Your right leg should be straight on the floor and your left knee should be bent.
Lift your left arm and right leg up to meet in the middle. Engage your abs, and don't slouch.
Switch and do the same on the other side for an ab aching workout.
Lay flat on your back with your feet suspended in the air. Your palms should be flat on the floor at your sides. The back of your neck and your head should be just lifted off the ground to the bottom of your shoulders. Your abdominals should be engaged.
Keep one leg up in the air, and drop the other one straight down. Don't quite touch your foot to the floor. Slowly bring your leg back to the original position. Repeat on the other side.