Tone Up Your Tummy

Want to improve your posture, say goodbye to backache and have a midriff worthy of flaunting in sexy little tops? Get working on your abs now, then!

Strong abdominal muscles mean better support for your body, great posture and a flatter tummy.

THE CRUNCH: Place your hands on your temples or thighs (putting them on your temples makes the exercise harder as you are also lifting the weight of your arms), chin down. Slowly roll the spine upwards for the count of two, give your stomach muscles a good squeeze then lower for the count of two. ‘Don’t let your head rest on the mat when you come back down as it puts pressure on the neck,’ says fitness experts. Now add a twist to the exercise to work the oblique muscles as well. Perform the basic, crunch then before squeezing, twist to the left or right, return to the centre position, lower and repeat to fatigue. Breathe in on the way up and out going down.

THE PLANK: This also improves posture and eases lower-back pain.

Level one: Lie on your front, with your elbows on the floor under your shoulders and your forearms on the ground. Raise up onto your knees, pull your tummy in, tense and hold. Your neck, spine and hips should be aligned. Hold for five seconds. Add five seconds each time, working up to 90 seconds.

Level two: This time, lift onto your toes. Start a zero and count up until you can’t hold it any longer. Hold for five more seconds next time. This is the most important abs exercise. If you sit all day, your transversus abs will be weak because they’re not worked as much as they should be.

DORSAL RAISE: Lie on your front with your elbows level with your shoulders and at right angles to your body. Keeping the elbows touching the floor, lift the top half of your body slowly off the ground for the count of two then back down for two. Breathe out as you go up and in on the way back down.

There’s no resistance on this exercise so try to do 10 reps at first. If that’s hard, count how many you can do and try to add more each time.

REVERSE CURL: Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, legs raised, ankles crossed. Lift your bottom off the floor then lower it back down again. The important thing here is to push the pelvis off the floor and not to roll the spine up. Keep your back flat on the floor. Men find this exercise almost impossible – and certainly very painful so if you want to get one over on your fella you could always challenge him to a contest!

Understanding Your Abs

There are three muscle groups to consider:

  1. THE TRANSVERSUS ABS are a deep layer near the spine. These form a supportive corset round your body and give you that ‘flat tummy’ feeling. They also improve posture.
  2. THE OBLIQUES form a crisscross around the mid-section and are responsible for turning you from side to side. If you’re worried about love handles, target these.
  3. THE RECTI ABDOMINIS form the top layer – these give the illusion of a six-pack. A good abs routine targets all three groups.

Max Your Abs Work-Out

  1. Be flexible. Never work your abs on an exercise that fixes your legs in place – a machine that holds them in place or by putting your feet under a chair. You’ll be able to do more reps but you’re working your hip flexors rather than your abs.
  2. Do it the hard way. Most gyms have tab trainers (frames which assist with sit-ups) but these should only be used to learn the technique. When you crunch and your abs contract, a muscle around the neck contracts, too, to protect the neck vertebrae. A trainer takes that contraction out, making the exercise feel easier. If you use it over a period of time the abs get very strong and when you do crunches without the frame your neck fatigues before the ab muscles.