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YOUR LOOK fitness The Packing Order You don’t have to be discouraged by the hard work it takes to get perfect abs, but you do have to be committed to following each step hances are you’re one of the many people who had “Lose weight” or “Diet” or some variation or combi- nation of those ideas on your list of New Year’s reso- lutions. If not, you’re either fibbing or you’re one of the very few people who actually sticks to their goals and sees them through. Otherwise, it’s the same thing every year for most people, featuring empty promises and plenty of regrets. But you know that it doesn’t have to be this way. You can accom- plish your goals and fulfill your resolutions, finally putting your disappointment in yourself to rest. Let’s start with one of the most popular body areas of desired improvement this year—the abs. Sculpting your abdominal mus- cles into a perfect six-pack isn’t easy, but it’s also not impossible. You just have to be dedicated to the effort. And hard work is al- ways more fulfilling than regret. C YOUR WORLD IS FLAT First, it’s important to understand the anatomy of the rectus ab- dominis (abs, for short). They run down the front of the torso, from the center of the rib cage to the pubic bone. It’s a common myth that the abs are made up of several different muscles (such as upper and lower abs). The fact that the word “abs” appears to be plural doesn’t help this case. But in fact, it is one long sheet of mus- cle that just happens to look like several small muscles. This is due to a unique feature called “tendinous inscriptions.” These inscrip- tions run across the muscle and down the center, giving it that “6- pack” (but more accurately, 8-pack) appearance. “If the abs are one muscle,” you may be wondering, “then why do certain exercises seem to target different areas?” Actually, all abdominal exercises target the entire muscle, but during some ex- ercises, you just happen to feel it in one region of the muscle a lit- tle more. The abs are grouped with a few other muscles that are collec- tively referred to as the “core,” which also includes your obliques 140 PAGEANTRY (which run diagonally across your middle), transverse abdominis (a long muscle that runs horizontally beneath the rectus abdominis), and lower back (erector spinae muscles along the spine). Some ex- perts also consider the hips to be part of the core. Many people focus on training the abs but forget about these other muscles, which are also important. A good rule of thumb is that every time you train your abs, you should also target the obliques and lower back as well. BURN, BABY, BURN Contrary to popular belief, doing ab exercises does not target the fat around your mid-section. Doing ab exercises will define stomach muscles but you must first burn the fat that is hiding them. You may be surprised to know that most people actually DO have strong, defined abs… they just happen to be covered by a layer of blubber. This is because the abs are actually involved in balance and stabilization during all kinds of every day movements and exercises. All the crunches (or other exercises) in the world won’t burn the fat on top of the muscle. To accomplish this, you need a combination of regular cardio (aerobic) exercise and a healthy diet to create a caloric deficit nec- essary to lose weight. So, burn more body fat by moving your body in a cardio way. Go jogging, biking, brisk walking, until you’re starting to feel exhausted, take a break, perhaps one or two min- utes, then repeat. Do that every second day, not every day (that would be over-training). More than two days break will cost you success (though two times per week is better than nothing). You should see the first signs of results after one or two months if you are consistent.