Taylor Lautner, Chris Evans, Zac Efron, Jillian Michaels, Jessica Alba, JLo. You know what these celebrities have in common? Jaw-dropping ripped abs. Oh yes, you pictured that right.
According to Mike Geary, nutrition specialist and author of The Truth About Six Pack Abs, crunches, planks, sit-ups and other core exercises aren't the only activities that work our abs and are in fact usually not enough to attain those perfect washboard buns. Apart from proper diet, there's this not-so-secret technique that we all have to master: flexing our abs. By doing so, you are conditioning your body to look tight, ripped, defined and toned all the time.
As easy as it sounds, flexing the abs is a tad bit challenging for most people. Well, it's not rocket science but it's definitely not like falling off a log either. So to make those babies really stand out, we're going to give you a handful of tips on how to flex your abs.
Building a six-pack abs brings about more positive results than just popping those buns and making you look leaner. Aside from the physical wonders it yields, it also strengthens your core by isometrically putting stress on your core muscles. Why is a strong core vital?
- Since your core is the midsection part of the body joining the upper and lower parts, having a strong core is like having a sturdy central foundation. From the most mundane tasks like mopping the floor, taking a bath or just standing still to more strenuous activities like heavy weight lifting, your body counts on your core. For example in lifting weights during workouts, you need to keep your core tight so as not to wreak havoc on your back. Even sports (and sex) are powered by a strong core, and flexing your abs totally cranks up this power, improving endurance to some degree. Remember to choose your most appropriate weight lifting belts and gloves before you start weight lifting.
- Our core, being the central bedrock of the body, supports our spine. Hence, a strong core promotes good posture. Good posture minimizes weathering of the spine, allows optimal breathing, trims one's silhouette, exudes confidence and helps you earn full benefits from your routine exercises.
- A strong core is equal to a strong spine which is equal to alleviation of back pain and prevention of injury. Flexing the abs is said to activate the deepest, hard-to-reach layer behind the obliques. This layer is called the transverse abdominis. You can imagine it as a kind of like a corset that pulls everything in. According to a study in 1999, activating and isolating this layer helps relieve back pain and since this layer surrounds the spine, it also helps in our overall stability thereby preventing injury.
Drawbacks of Ab Flexing
Like any other things, ab flexing has its own downsides.
- If you think about it, "flexing your abs" sounds so undemanding. When we read exercise instructions, we always encounter statements like "engage your core" or "keep your core tight" which actually involves flexing the abs! But, do we really know how to do it properly? While some people can flex their abs like it's part of their daily routine, many still find it hard to execute. Yes, we suck our tummies in all the time to hide our gut or look thinner in photos. But flexing the abs is more than that. It actually takes time to master and requires constant practice for you to really knock the core muscles spot-on and target the even-more-difficult-to-hit transverse abdominis.
- Aside from the time it requires, flexing the abs doesn't make you thinner - contrary to what other people might think. Although some experts say that flexing the abs helps burn calories, many avows that the change is not at all visible unless you trim down your body fat through diet and exercise.
- If you are thinking flexing the abs will result in noticeable mass gains, well, it doesn't. As much as it stresses your core muscles isometrically, the muscles are technically not doing any work so muscle growth is quite impossible.
Flexing the Abs and Building a Six-Pack
Just to clear things up, flexing the abs doesn't necessarily give you perfectly chiseled abs. You see, getting a six-pack is not a one-step process and definitely doesn't happen overnight. It involves many exercises (and flexing) and takes a lot of patience, discipline and determination.
Flexing the abs is a great way to improve muscle tone even for those who have sedentary lifestyle. It is also very beneficial for working out or recovering from surgery and/or injury.
So if washboard abs are your holy grail, it's essential to trim body fat through diet and exercise and build strong abdominal muscles through frequent core strengthening exercises. Of course, flexing the abs is part of the equation. It doesn't only condition your abs to look tight and ripped; it also helps target the deepest ab muscles.
Important core exercises for a totally ripped abs include (but not limited to):
- Medicine Ball Slam
- Side plank with dumbbell flys
- Dumbbell Overhead Press with Twist
- Ab Wheel Rollout
- Barbell Landmine
- Pallof Press
- Lying Windshield Wiper
- Knee to Shoulder Knee-ins
- Butterfly crunches
Tips to a Great Abs
Other than core exercises and flexing the abs, there are other pertinent factors we need to consider for us to carve our abs perfectly.
Always remember that food is a vital key to a six-pack. You must work with your eating habits just as hard as you work in the gym. As they say, a six-pack is made from the kitchen. But what is the recipe?
Basically you need to cut back on calories and watch your macros like carbohydrates, protein and fat. You need ust the right amount of protein, enough to fuel your workout and not shift that layer of flab anywhere else. Instead of digesting simple carbs like bread and pasta or devouring on sugar, fried food and alcohol, you better eat vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and food rich in healthy fats like avocado and unsalted nuts.
The best thing to do for you to be able to monitor your intake is to pre-plan your meals (and it would be best if you cook them yourself). Examples of food that can carve you a perfect six-pack are broccoli, oats and salmon.
Aside from the wondrous effects of water, consuming large amounts of it (about 1 gallon or 16 cups daily) can also make you feel full thereby inhibiting you from eating too much.
Also, contrary to popular belief, increased water intake does nit result in more water retention. In fact, your body will just keep on flushing it since it has no fear of possible dehydration. The more water intake, the less water retention, the more definition to your abs.
Most people do intense core workouts once or twice a week. If you modify your program into doing a little work more often, your abs will be shaped even more.
How to Flex the Abs?
Others call it transverse abdominis (TA) exercises while some others simple refer to it as tightening the core. The concept of each technique is basically the same. However, one technique may not work for another so we're going to impart different styles for you to try whichever works well for you.
Technique #1 – Hollowing
This is is a very important exercise that even physical therapists recommend. First, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Then, try pulling your navel in toward your spine while breathing shallowly. Make sure your tummy doesn't depress too much instead make it hard. Remember, your are not simply sucking it in but contracting your abs.
Also, do not move your pelvis and chest. Imagine zipping up your muscles from the bottom of your abdomen to the base of your ribs and hold it for 10 seconds then release. Repeat 10x. You can also perform this sitting down instead of lying. This technique takes practice but you just have to keep on doing it until you do it right. Before you know it, you can even do it while walking or doing any of your regular daily tasks!
Technique #2 – Bracing
Imagine preparing to be punched in the gut. What's your basic instinct? Contract and stiffen your abdominal muscles, right? That's bracing. It targets deep and superficial muscles. You also do that during planks, push-ups and other exercises, and soon when enough, you might just do it at any time of any day to keep your core stronger.
While everyone has a vivid mental picture of the abs they want, not everyone is equipped with the right information as to how abs are effectively shaped. Yes, diet, hydration and perfectly timed core exercises make the perfect recipe to a luscious washboard abs but like many renowned chefs, there is always a secret ingredient.
With HD abs, the secret is quite simple: flexing. It covers a whole heap of benefits and when mastered, it can be like a second-nature to you. Heck, you even do it unknowingly when you pick up a car seat or hold up a handheld shower. Now that you know the secret, you can now flex your way to an ABS-olutely strong and muscular core!