Getting a toned set of abs is no easy feat. You will need to follow a structured exercise program and eat a nutritious diet to reveal a well-defined tummy. You can see changes in your abs in as little as 21 days by adhering to this kind of healthy lifestyle. The key is to be consistent in your daily workout routines and choose a variety of exercises to beat boredom. Aim to do abdominal workouts three to four times per week and cardio three to five times per week to maximize results.
The obliques are the muscles on the sides of your trunk that give you a lean, cinched-in waistline. Exercises that target the obliques include air bicycles, side crunches and side planks with a twist. Do air bicycles by lying on your back on a mat with knees bent to 90 degrees and hands behind your head. Lift your head and shoulders off the ground as you contract your abdominals. Rotate your body to the left such that your right elbow meets your left knee. Your right leg will extend during this action. As you lower back to the ground, extend your left leg and bring your right leg in to meet your left elbow on the next crunch. Do 10 to 15 repetitions for two to three sets the first week. Gradually increase, so that you are doing 15 to 20 reps for a total of three to four sets by the beginning of the third week of your abs program. Skip a day between oblique workouts to give them time to recover.
The lower abs are often the most targeted abdominal area as flabbiness can give women the dreaded belly pouch. Although you will train the whole abdominal region with most ab exercises, you can emphasize the lower abs with exercises such as reverse crunches, scissors and hanging leg raises. Do reverse crunches by lying on your back on the floor with legs straight up in the air such that legs are perpendicular to the floor. Place your hands gently behind your head and lift your shoulders off of the floor as you contract your abdominals. Simultaneously lift your hips to push your legs straight up into the sky. Repeat 10 to 15 times for three sets during week one of your program. Increase reps by five to 10 each week, so that you are completing 20 repetitions in three sets at the end of 21 days.
The rectus abdominus forms the sought-after six-pack for a tight and toned physique. Nearly all abs exercises will target the rectus abdominus as it's impossible to entirely separate the upper, middle and lower abdominals. Exercises to include in your abdominal routine include crunches, front planks, V-ups and cable crunches. Do the front plank by lying on your belly on the floor. Push yourself up into a push-up position resting on your toes and forearms such that your elbows are underneath your shoulders. Contract your abdominals to maintain a straight line from head to toe. Hold this position for 30 seconds to a minute and repeat three times. Progressively increase your holding time to one minute at the end of week two, and a minute and a half by the end of week three. Alternatively, aim to hold planks until you are fatigued and need to rest.
You can do a thousand crunches a day but it won't make a difference if you still have layers of fat hiding your tummy muscles. Lose the fat by increasing your cardiovascular workouts to burn extra calories for 21 days. For weight-loss, schedule five cardio workouts per week that are 30- to 60-minutes in duration. Include high-intensity training in your schedule two times per week to boost the metabolism and increase fat burn. A sample interval workout would be to run hard for one minute followed by two minutes of moderate-paced running repeated five to 10 times. Always include a warmup and cool-down in workouts.
- Mayo Clinic: Slide Show: Exercises To Improve Your Core Strength
- The New Abs Diet For Women; David Zinczenko & Ted Spiker; 2011
Jennifer Andrews specializes in writing about health, wellness and nutrition. Andrews has a Master of Science in physical therapy from the University of Alberta as well as a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. She teaches yoga and pilates and is a recent graduate of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition.