The most intimidating muscle group that not only makes you look like a Greek God (or Goddess) but also indicates how healthy you are , are the abs. Toning the abs is intimidating only because of the hype around it, and for good reason. Building abs requires 3 things:
- Losing excess abdominal fat
- Strengthening the core
- Nourishing the muscles with protein so they grow bigger and stronger
In many parts of the world, muscles are perceived as men’s prerogative. Most people think that women with muscles look masculine and not pretty at all. But this view point is changing; today, if a man or a woman wants to look physically fit and beautiful/handsome, then strong and well-defined abs are a part of the equation.
Even if you have led a more or less sedentary life so far, there is still plenty of scope for improving the strength and girth of abdominal muscle groups by making a few minor changes to your lifestyle and diet. Developing a fine set of abs is not achieved just through exercise. Following these 3 important steps can help tone your overall musculature to give you those coveted abs.
1. Improve your diet
- Consume carbohydrates that take longer to digest and are rich in fiber. Switch to whole grains if you are already on a carbohydrate rich diet. Alternatively go in for a low carb diet like Ketogenic or Paleo. Both are proven to help reduce belly fat.
- Eat breakfast every day. Make sure there is at least 30 grams of protein along with whole grains in the portion you take for breakfast. If you love eggs and bacon, you might want to cut the amount of bacon and consume more egg whites along with some whole grain dry toast. Include food rich in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, avocado and walnuts. Eating good fats will prevent flab in the abdomen. Substitute hollandaise and mayonnaise with scrambled egg whites and eat cured salmon in place of bacon on a multigrain toast for a filling and comforting breakfast.
- Drink plenty of water- at least 8-10 large glasses daily. Drink unsweetened fruit juice every morning as part of your breakfast for vitamins and antioxidants.
- Consume protein rich food during the day. Ensure you make a workout plan and eat protein after the workout to replenish and strengthen the muscles with branched chain amino acids. These are especially required after workout, because they aid in quick repair of muscles after the wear and tear they are subjected to. Protein shakes can also replenish worn and tired muscles but they are never a substitute for actual meals like breakfast, lunch and dinner.
2. Target specific muscle groups for a 15 minute workout
- Crunches: Lie down on your back on a comfortable mat or a carpet. Fold your legs at the knees and plant your feet firmly behind you buttocks. Now, take your head to your knees. Initially, you can hold your shins with your hands. Eventually, you will be able to do this with your palms crossed behind your head. Do it in 3 sets of 3 times each. Rest for 90 seconds between each set. Now, do the reverse crunch. Instead of taking your head to the knees, take your knees to your head. Let your arms lie on your side when you do the reverse crunch. Do 3 sets of 3 times each resting between two consecutive sets. Take it slow. The first week, do only 1 set. Slowly increase the number of sets and number of times you do it. The thing about exercise is that it gets easier as you get accustomed. Challenge yourself once you start getting comfortable. But, take it easy the first 3 to 4 weeks. You will know your level of endurance and you can step up the game.
- Plank: Lie on your abdomen with your palm under your shoulder. Now, lift your entire body so it is parallel to the floor and your weight on your forearms. You should balance on your toes but your weight must be borne by your forearms. First day, do it for 10 seconds. Second, for 20 seconds and so on. Do not increase the duration on the third day or the fourth if you are not comfortable. The key to ease is comfort. Increase the duration by 10 more seconds when you are comfortable. Limit the maximum time to do the plank to 90 seconds.
- Leg raises: This is very easy and fun too. Lie on your back, support your back by placing your arms underneath your body, and lift your legs up so that they are at 90 degrees to the floor. Slowly drop your legs to 60 degrees to the ground. Hold there for 10 seconds. Now, drop to 45 degrees and hold for 10 seconds. Drop to 30 degrees and hold for 10 seconds. Raise your legs back up to 90 degrees. Repeat 2 more times. As your grow comfortable in this exercise, you will be able to repeat more number of times effortlessly.
- Cycle in the air: Another incredibly easy but extremely beneficial exercise. Lie on your back, support your back by placing your arms underneath your body, and lift your legs up so that they are at 90 degrees to the floor. Cycle in the air. Do 3 times forward and 3 times reverse. Rest for 30 seconds. Repeat. You can also do supine twisting after cycling if you feel like it to reinforce the crunches and cycling.
3. Follow up with weights and cardio
- Weight training must be done only 3 times a week. Take two wooden chairs of same weight and design. Squat between the chairs and place your arms on the armrests. Lift your body up by pressing down your arms on the armrests. Do it slowly and if you are able to lift only a few millimeters off the ground, it is okay. Gradually, as your arms get stronger, you will be able to do it much better. Lie down on the mat or carpet and place your arm underneath your body. Do leg raisings with small weights tied to your legs. Do not over do this. Ensure you are balancing the weights so both legs get the exact same amount of exercise. This exercise also affects your lower back; so if you are not sure, just stick to leg risings without weights.
- Run on the treadmill or ride the stationary cycle. Elliptical machine is great too but cycle is enough. If you are more interested in swimming or jogging, there is nothing better for cardio.
Once you have incorporated 15 minutes into your daily routine, and seen visible results within a span of 2 months, you will be motivated to work out for 30 minutes a day. With little practice, everyday exercise can become easy and fun and show great results. Do not overdo anything. Special note for women: Do not do weights, leg risings, plank and crunches during your pregnancy or menstrual period. Talk to your trainer or doctor as to which exercise is right for you. These are some of easy ways to get abs.