‘Getting’ abs: a few tips and a sample exercise routine

Abs! A-B-S. We’re all after them. Without an exception, men and women, we’re ever so slightly obsessed with abs. In fairness to us, a flat – yet toned and defined – stomach is not only a sign of health and good fitness, but it’s also very attractive. No wonder health enthusiasts have lost their minds when and where abs are concerned. For them, however, it isn’t simply working towards a flat / skinny stomach, but about muscle definition and toning.

To accomplish this, people ought to be aware of two major factors:

  1. A healthy diet
  2. An exercise routine

When I say a ‘healthy diet’, I naturally don’t mean a ‘diet’ in its strictest of definitions as restriction of calories and depriving oneself of food. I mean an ‘eating plan’ of sorts. Now, I know it’s very comforting – to some anyway – to think that exercise by itself will get rid of your belly fat and reveal those abs. But, sadly, that’s not the case. You might have heard the saying ‘No amount of exercise can out-exercise a bad diet’. You can spend 23 hours in the gym, then come home and stuff your face with the unhealthiest foods ever invented by human kind, therefore counteracting your hard work earlier. The reality is, you need to eat healthily for your abs to A. develop / grow and B. show. Eating clean as much as you possibly can, staying away from processed foods while prioritising fresh produce, lean meat (if you’re a meat eater), nuts / seeds and legumes will benefit you immensely. Do have a treat, of course, but you ought to improve your diet to see results.

And then there are those who believe that working out is out of fashion or, even worse, is unnecessary for the achievement of a six pack, among other fitness goals. No, exclusively doing hundreds of crunches a day doesn’t guarantee you a firm belly. But yes, working out on a regular basis will lead to an overall toned body and a healthier expression. Once you target different areas of your body, your chances of success are perhaps even higher, e.g. back day, arm day, etc. In this sense and across the board, abs are comparatively easy to ‘get’, yet they’re engaging in almost every exercise you do. For instance, when you squat, you’re – believe it or not – engaging your core. When you perform lunges, you’re inevitably using your core muscles again. But if you solely focus on eating healthily, with close to no sports, you’re unlikely to attain a toned stomach.

All of us have abs – as if you needed me to tell you that – but we’re faced with two distinct case scenarios.

Case scenario number one: abs are underneath a layer of fat. If you’re overweight, you’ve got to shed the extra weight around the belly area and only then – with the right eating habits and exercises – will you be able to flaunt your abs.

Case scenario number two: abs won’t exactly parade themselves, for you are among those that consider exercise overrated. It’s automatically assumed that if you’re slender, you’ll have your abs protruding. No, much to mine and everyone else’s displeasure. If you’re slim, your abs are safely tucked away, since you’re barely working your core muscles. Your stomach will appear flat, but flat doesn’t equal toned and muscle-defined.

The common thread here is that abs need both physical stimulation and nutrients to develop, grow and show. It isn’t a question of one, or the other. It’s a combination of the two.

Now, onto some of the exercises I do for my abs:

  1. Variations of plank: I used to hate planking. Not a huge fan still, but as I’m stronger and better, I’m hating on it less. Planking is great for your abs (and other muscle groups) and your total strength. You’re basically supporting yourself and carrying your own body weight. It looks fairly simple, but trust me, it is not. You can do a standard plank, a side plank, a knee plank. Research them and switch up your routine to avoid plateau. Length: start with about 20 seconds and increase time, as you progress.
  2. Russian twists: As of right now, I’m doing Russian twists with about seven kgs of added weight. You can perform them without it, but you’ll see faster and enhanced outcomes, if you challenge yourself. Reps: 2 x 50
  3. Various crunches: Regular crunches, abdominal crunches, side crunches and V-crunches. The names suggest they’re in charge of different ab muscles, so I advise you to do them in compliance with what area you’re specifically targeting. I usually always do regular and side crunches. Reps: 2 x 50 + 1 x 25 for regular crunches and 2 x 50 for side crunches. Do bear in mind, it’s a good idea to do more one time, less next time and / or gradually increase the number of crunches you do. But I don’t do more than 50 reps continuously. Again, if you’re into pushing yourself, grab yourself some weight!
  4. Heel touches: Lying on your back, knees bent with feet resting on the floor, start touching your right and left heel. Reps: 2 x 50
  5. A two-minute hold: I’ve advanced, so I hold it longer. For starters, however, you can lie on your back, your knees bent with feet not touching the floor as if you were sitting, shoulders a little lifted off the ground so your core muscles are engaging; hold in that position for two minutes (less, more; however long you manage). If you’re feeling extra motivated, hold a dumbbell / any weight in your arms.
  6. A neck stand: This exercise gives you a moment to slow down your breathing – for a while, at least – and observe your abs from up close (keep your chin down)! Joke aside, it’s a good abdominal ab exercise. Women, in particular, have a difficult time training the abdominal muscles. It’s important that we do, though, and not just for the purpose of toning. Length: once again, you can increase the duration of your neck stand. I’d say, apart from everything else, do it with the aim of resting and catching a breath. Currently, I stay in said position for about 2:30 minutes.
  7. Pull-up Bar side crunches (a created name): Do you have a pull-up bar you can hold onto? If so, a few reps of side crunches, whereby you bring your knees to your chest while twisting your body to respectively the left / right may do you a world of good. Reps: 3 x 10 (it’s hard…).

It goes without saying that I research and try out different routines to keep my body guessing and avoid it getting accustomed to a specific set of exercises. You should figure out what works best for you, meanwhile revitalising your regimes fairly often.

This is it from me for the time being, guys. Happy exercising! Keep healthy!

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