good ab workouts for men and womenGood Ab Workouts for Men and Women, to build that 6 pack you always wanted

Go to a movie, open a magazine or turn on the TV and you will inevitably be bombarded with images of men (and women) sporting lean, defined abs.

The six-pack is so called because when you get your body fat down to a reasonable level (around 10-percent for men and 16-percent for women) the outline of the rectus abdominus muscle shows through the skin. Rectus abdominus is flat and runs from your sternum and ribs down to the front of your pelvis and is criss-crossed with ligament-like tissue called linea alba which literally means white lines. It’s the white lines that give it its distinctive six-pack shape.

When your body fat levels are sufficiently low, there is nothing but skin between your abs and the outside world and that’s when you can see your six-pack although, in reality, we all have one but most are covered by a layer of fat!

To get a six-pack, you need to watch your diet and gradually reduce your calorific intake. This will force your body to burn fat for fuel. You can further enhance fat burning by increasing your activity levels such as doing more cardio or simply walking more each day.

As your fat levels come down, you can simultaneously work your rectus abdominus and the other muscles of your midsection so that, once the fat comes off, your abs are strong, firm and will look their best.

Strong abs not only look better, they function better too. Your abs and the other muscles of your midsection are actively involved in just about every activity you perform. These muscles bridge the gap between your legs and arms and help support your spine. In addition, they are responsible for producing a lot of power in movements like punches, kicks and throws.

Unfortunately, many people do not work their ab muscles effectively and ironically, the most commonly performed ab exercises, the sit-up and the crunch, are arguably the least effective.

In these and other similar ab exercises, rectus abdominus moves works through a very limited range of movement and exposes the spine to a lot of repeated flexion which many experts believe can lead to intervertebral disc damage. In addition, it’s very rare for a daily and sporting activity to involve this type of movement which means crunches and sit-ups are not what you would call functional.

Thankfully, there are several good alternatives to crunches and sit-ups that you can perform to strengthen your abs safely and effectively…

Planks – kneel down and place your elbows and forearms on the floor. Clasp your hands lightly together. Walk your feet back so your weight is supported on your arms and toes only. Your body should be straight and your upper arms vertical. Hold this position (but not your breath!) for as long as you comfortably can. Do not lift or lower your hips. Bend your legs and rest on your knees if you find this exercise too demanding.

Roll-outs – using an ab wheel or a barbell loaded with small-diameter plates, kneel on the floor and place the wheel/bar in front of your legs. Grasp it firmly with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Keeping your arms straight, push the wheel/bar away from you and lower your chest toward the floor. Do not drop your hips. Use your abdominals to pull yourself back up and into the kneeling position. Inhale as you push away and exhale as you pull back up.

Russian twists – sit on the floor with your legs bent and feet flat. Lean back so your upper body is inclined to around 45-degrees. Extend your arms out level with the floor and clasp your hands together. Rotate your arms and shoulders as far as you can to the left and then to the right but do not sit up or lean back any farther. Make this exercise more demanding by holding a medicine ball, weight plate or dumbbell in your hands.

Medicine ball slams – stand with your feet shoulder width apart and hold a medicine ball in your hands. Lift the medicine ball up above your head and then, using your abs as much as your arms, hurl the ball down at the floor around 12-inches/30-centemeters in front of your feet. Catch the ball as it rebounds and then repeat. Imagine your abs are the string in a bow to get the most from this exercise.

Cable wood chops – stand sideways on to an adjustable cable machine set to around head-height. Grasp the handle in both hands. Keep your hips square and turn your arms and upper body through approximately 180-degrees while lowering your hands to around hip-height. Imagine your arms and torso is a tank turret and your legs are the body of the tank; your upper body should move independently of your lower body. Return to the starting position and repeat. Do the same number of repetitions on each side. This exercise can also be performed with the cable set to shoulder-height or using a resistance band if you do not have access to a cable machine.

Unlike crunches and sit-ups, these exercises will improve both the function and appearance of your marvellous midsection muscles but remember – a six-pack is the result of a holistic approach to exercise and diet – not just more ab training. If you want a six-pack, you need to watch your diet, do your cardio, strengthen your entire body and also work your abs hard and smart.

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