(In a crunch, you do not perform more than 30 degrees of spinal flexion (which refers to how high you lift your torso off the floor). This range of motion isolates the proper muscle, the rectus abdominis, best known as the coveted 'six pack'.)
Tips for Flat Abs (by Joan Pagano)
If you're like most people, you rank the belly as a top trouble spot. And it isn't just the 20-something college crowd that wants a trimmer tummy. In my professional experience, people of all ages - from 15-to 95-year-olds - want to know the most effective exercises for sculpting that elusive, flat belly.
The abdomen is the most challenging area of the body to keep in shape. We all know that clothing doesn't fit right if the belly is too big and that belly fat can create a health risk. If you're doing abdominal exercises faithfully and not seeing results, you may be a victim of simple mistakes in technique.
To begin with, do you know the difference between a sit-up and a crunch? Most of us are familiar with the classic sit-up, in which you come to a full sitting position. However, for many years now, the fitness industry has favoured crunches over sit-ups.
In a crunch, you do not perform more than 30 degrees of spinal flexion (which refers to how high you lift your torso off the floor), even if you can lift higher. This range of motion isolates the proper muscle, the rectus abdominis, best known as the coveted "six pack" muscle (which describes the sections that develop with toning). If you lift higher, as in a full sit-up, you recruit the hip flexors in addition to the rectus, and risk stress to the lower back.
Here are three exercise tips to flatten the belly:-
1. Learn to "scoop" when you do a crunch. Having worked with hundreds of clients, I've found that only a few get this right from the start. As you lift up your head and shoulders, you need to draw the belly button towards the spine without changing the natural curve in the low back.
When you button a tight p;air of jeans, this is the muscle right under the zipper that you automatically contract. "Scooping" describes this action.
2. Keep tension in the abdominals as you crunch. After you prepare your scoop, imagine you have a wide belt around your middle connecting your ribs to your hips.
Set your abs before you move by tightening this belt and keep tension in the abdominals as you lift and lower your shoulders, never letting your shoulders relax to the floor.
3. Take your time and breathe. Perform each repetition with concentration, exhaling as you crunch up, inhaling as you release. You can learn to breathe normally while holding the scoop.
Slower is harder when doing crunches and if you make each one count, you can do fewer with better results. You don't need to do hundreds of crunches, you just need to do them right. Three sets of 15-20 crunches is sufficient for toning.
Do your abdominal routine every other day to allow the muscles to rest, recover and rebuild.
For even better results, supplement your abs workout with regular cardio activity. Cardio exercise will enhance your body's sculpting effect by reducing the layer of fat that covers your muscles to reveal a more defined shape underneath. Do at least 30 minutes of cardio - like walking, jogging, stair climbing, cycling or swimming - five days a week. - HealthNewsDigest.com