Getting the ever-elusive 6-pack seems to be a widespread mystery – a seemingly unsolvable case. And I’m not referring to the 6-pack hidden in the fridge, but rather to those much sought after sexy stomach muscles that we often see on magazine covers – your core muscles.
Why your core muscles are important
Your core muscles, which include your abdominal, hip and back muscles, are important because most of your full body movements originate here. When your core muscles contract they stabilize your spine, pelvis and ribs to give you extra stability, which helps with good posture.
Why should you do stomach exercises?
When the core muscles, especially the abs, are weak or there’s a strength imbalance between the different muscles it could result in lower back pain. Strengthening your core muscles by building strong abs will help to reduce lower back pain.
However, if stomach exercises are done incorrectly making them ineffective, your abdominals won’t get strong, which could result in lower back problems.
Benefits of strong core muscles
- Your posture is better and you reduce the risk of lower back problems
- You improve every day functioning and physical performance
- Your body is more stable and your balance improves
- Your movements are more efficient and powerful
- You reduce the risk of injury
Should I eat right for a flat stomach?
Yes, you should. You wouldn’t be able to achieve a flat stomach without a good diet.
Your diet should be calorie-controlled and should include a variety of foods that provide carbohydrates, protein, healthy fat, nutrients and plenty of water to stay healthy. Be careful not to cut your calorie intake too drastically as this can result in a loss of valuable muscle mass causing your metabolism to slow down, making it harder for your body to burn fat.
The combination of a calorie-controlled diet together with core (ab) strengthening exercises and an overall increase in your physical activity level will help to tone and define your abs.
What ab exercises should I do?
Before you start doing your abdominal exercises, make sure you stabilise your transverse abdominus muscles first. Here’s how. Lie on your back with your knees bent. Imagine that your bladder is full and “pinch”. Pull your belly button in and engage the muscles of the pelvic floor to activate all your abdominal muscles.
5 exercises to strengthen your core muscles
You can do core exercises everyday if you like. Gradually build yourself up to doing 3 sets of 15-20 repetitions for each exercise:
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Begin by lifting and rolling your shoulders towards your pelvis and crunching your abs. Keep your lower back pressed on the floor while sliding you fingertips up your legs to touch your knees.
Lie on your back with knees bent at 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor, put your hands behind your head. Lift your right shoulder and twist your body so that your right elbow reaches towards your left knee. Alternate by doing the same movement with your left elbow reaching towards your right knee.
Straight static leg and back
Lie on your back with knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Lift your hips to form a bridge with your body. Then lift and straighten your left leg and hold for 30 seconds. Then alternate do the same exercise by straightening your right leg.
Lie on your back, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor. Start with your back in a neutral position – your should be able to feel a space between your back and the floor because of the natural curve of your spine. Then tighten your buttocks and ab muscles and tilt your pelvis up and flatten your back, decreasing the size of the space. Hold for 10 seconds.
Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands alongside your body for stability. Lift your buttocks up to straighten your hips. Hold for 30 seconds.
After you have done your core exercises, you need to stretch
Stretching is very important; it will help to prevent injuries. Stretching will also help to reduce lower back pain, so after you have done the abdominal exercises, do the following stretches:
Hamstring stretch with a towel
Lie on your back. Take a towel and put it over your left foot and grab each end of the towel. Keep your right leg on the floor. Then pull back on the towel keeping your left leg straight (don’t bend your knee). Hold the stretch for 30 seconds and then repeat with your right leg.
Lower back stretch
Lie on your back, bend your knees, and bring them to your chest. Hold your legs together with arms and hold for 30 seconds.
Reveal your great abs
Revealing your 6-pack doesn’t have to be a mystery. Make sure your ab muscles are strong and that you are following a healthy calorie-controlled diet together with increasing your overall physical activity to help define your abs.