It’s well-defined abs that separate the dad bods from fit bods…or so the world would have us believe. Little wonder then, that losing flab in the tummy and around the waist is one of the most popular goals for people who turn to exercise or personal trainers. In Lounge, we have written extensively on why it is better to have fitness rather than inch or weight loss as your goal, focus on health rather than aesthetics. But since we are heading into the wedding and festive season, when looking good takes centre stage, we are here to help you do just that by letting you in on the secret to fabulous abs.
First, here’s what you shouldn’t do: don’t take any drastic measures to try and get your tummy into a desired shape and size. Drastic routines that involve depleting yourself of energy and water content, like models and professional actors often resort to, are physically and mentally harmful. As is starving yourself just to meet your goal, says health experts and fitness coaches.
What you need to do instead is to get your nutrition, rest and exercise right so that you achieve your abs without sacrificing your health and wellbeing. As far as exercise goes, you will need a mix of weight training, calisthenics, gymnastics and sprinting. You will need to do this during the course of isolation training and/or HIIT to stimulate skeletal muscle growth and fat burn, says AK Abhinav, Bengaluru-based coach and founder of Namma X-Fit. “You will also need a lot of patience as the fat accumulated around your trunk region is famously called the stubborn fat. When your body starts losing fat, it begins at the extremities and the last to go is the fat around your waist and tummy. Coupled with exercise and patience, if your nutrition and rest are on point, the stored fat in the abdominal region is used to feed the muscles involved in your exercise programme,” says Abhinav.
Arguably, the most popular exercise for abs is the ab crunches. But crunches do nothing to give you chiseled abs. In fact, you won’t get there if you focus almost entirely on an ab routine without paying attention to strength, interval training, speed and weight training. “Most of the exercises in these training programmes involve the use of your abdominal muscles to stabilise the body and the exercises themselves help burn fat,” explains Abhinav. Also, instead of crunches, try going through the entire range of motion and instead do a sit-up, which is one the foundational movements for all workout routines.
The move helps strengthen the abdominal muscles and improve core strength, says Vinit Mathew Baptist, a functional range conditioning and mobility specialist based in Kolkata. If you focus on core strength, you will achieve your goals faster. “You don’t even need to do sit-ups every day for chiseled abs. Add sit-ups to your routine for two or three days a week and you would feel the difference in your core strength in a few weeks even if you don’t see any lines or cuts,” says Baptist. Also, add planks to your ab workouts. Plank variations are always good to incorporate in exercise regimen to build and maintain strong core muscles, says Gagan Arora, Delhi-based coach and founder of Kosmic Fitness.
You also need to remember that you already have abs, they are just hidden under layer of fat. Once the fat is burned, the abs would show through. Apart from sit-ups and planks, include exercises such as hanging leg raises, toes-to-bar, knees-to-elbow, single-arm plank, L-sit, L-hang and wipers, which engage your core and enhance its strength. Once the ab muscles are stimulated, they are subject to micro tears and undergo the repair process like any other muscle, says Abhinav. And how much of that will show depends on how patient you have been in pulling off the fine balancing act between nutrition, rest and exercise.
Three Ab Workouts
10 side V-ups
30 seconds star or side plank (each side)
1 minute plank
15 leg raises
1 minute star/side plank (each side)
1 minute side plank (each side)
10 side V-ups (each side)
Shrenik Avlani is a writer and editor and co-author of The Shivfit Way, a book on functional fitness.