By Jessica Migala
You’ve heard it before: Great abs are made in the kitchen. OK, but what happens when you’re eating clean and sticking to your workouts and you still aren’t seeing results? “Everyone finds it difficult to get the stomachthey truly want,” says Nashville-based celebrity personal trainer Erin Oprea, of Oprea Personal Fitness. (She’s Carrie Underwood’s go-to gal.) Here’s where you might be going wrong—and how to fix it.
- You’re all about the crunches
Sure, you can do crunches until you’re blue in the face, but that won’t take you to hard-abs town. “That is the worst way to go about abs. You need to think bigger,” says Oprea. Meaning: Your core contains far more muscles than crunches can target, like your internal and external obliques. Make planks and wood chops (try them with a cable or holding onto a medicine ball) part of your regular routine. These bigger movements engage a larger range of muscles in your body.
2. You’re not targeting deep muscles
There’s a muscle group that doesn’t get enough credit: your transverse abdominus (TVA), says Aaron Guy, an accredited master trainer in Los Angeles. “It’s a very deep muscle that acts like a corset. When strong, it helps pull your abdomen in like a girdle,” he explains. (Spanx? Who needs Spanx?) Activate your TVA by incorporating compound movements into your routine, he says, like squat presses or deadlifts. (Tone your entire body in just 18 minutes with Women’s Health’s All in 18 DVD!)
3. You’re not getting your back in on the action
Here’s an area you probably didn’t think you needed to focus on for awesome abs: your middle back. (If you need specifics, it’s your rhomboids and middle trapezius.) By strengthening these neglected muscles and stretching typically tight chest and lat muscles, you can realign your posture. “Having good posture will make you stand taller, look more confident, keep your core engaged throughout the day, and look and feel leaner,” says Guy. Try working these moves into your routine for spine-straightening, abs-tightening effects.
4. You’re not focusing on building muscle
“I see a lot of people moving too fast and lifting too light,” says Heather Barbieri, a certified fitness trainer in Atlanta. In order to build muscle (which you need for great abs), keep your weights heavy. What that means: You can only perform six to 12 reps until exhaustion. Rest periods between sets should be 60 to 90 seconds.
5. You haven’t mastered the pelvic tilt
Ever notice that your lower back aches when you’re blasting through your abs workout? When that happens, you’re engaging the muscles in your lower back—not the front of your core. If you want to hit your abs, your hips should be tilted forward so there is no arch in your back, says Oprea. To maintain proper form, remember this, she says: Tilt your pelvis in and push your lower back to the floor by pulling your belly button into your spine.
6. You do abs only on abs day
Oh, could you throw in some legs and arms, too? “There shouldn’t be a one-muscle-group-only day at all,” says Oprea. “That never makes it into my routine,” she says. Instead, focus your efforts on more full-body functional training. Not only does that engage more muscle to boost your burn, but it also mimics how your body naturally moves during day-to-day activities.
7. You’re ignoring HITT
Yes, sprints can be torture. But they also serve as a serious fat burner. “Short intervals of high intensity mixed with short periods of active recovery are the most effective way to burn more calories and boost your metabolism so your body burns more calories all day,” says Guy. Do HIIT in a variety of ways: sprint outside or on the treadmill, jump rope between sets during a strength workout, or incorporate heart-pounding movements like box jumps, squat jumps, andskater jumps into your routine. Your lungs may be burning, but it’s your abs that will thank you.
Source: Women’s Health Magazine| not affiliated with Aetrex Worldwide