Friday, July 8, 2011

"My Ab-session"

Every woman has her own insecurities about her body. Whether that be extra skin flubbing underneath her arms, her butt isn't big enough, she has "man hands", her nose is too big, her hair is too frizzy...we have heard them all. There seems to be a universal and unanimous sore spot, however. Flabby abs. I have read many magazine articles and blog posts about them. My hourglass shape middle has been an "ab-session" of mine since I was a teenager. It has also been the object of thousands of attempts to either accept them or flatten them.

Let's get one thing straight. Gisele Bundchen, myself, and you (yes, YOU!) have the same abs more or less. What sets us apart besides catalog covers and fashion shows? Fat. Hourglass shapes, like myself and other Greeks out there, are genetically inclined to carry a little "somethin' somethin'" below our waist thanks to our big wide hips. Don't get me wrong- I love my curves and wouldn't trade them for anything. But if we could, we all might choose Mrs. Tom Brady's seemingly perfect physique.

If you look in an anatomy book, take a look at what you're "packin' " (No pun intended!) Below the skin and what in the nursing world we call "sub-Q" fat (subcutaneous), there are muscles! The rectus abdominis runs down the front and and lies closest to the skin's surface. This is only one layer of the onion though. The internal and external obliques run up and down the sides and give you not only nice ripples but can hold your waist a bit. The transverses abdominis is a deeper muscle that encircles and clinches your center like those skinny jeans (which you should not be wearing!) All these muscles play a part in how your midsection works. Put it together with connective tissue and voila! You have yourself a six-pack (Sounds so easy, right?) Research focuses on two types of fat: sub-Q fat (squishy, gross fat on top of your rib cage that you can pinch yet vanishes when you lose weight.) Then there is visceral fat, which collects around your organs and is associated with metabolic problems (heart attack, liver disease, diabetes, etc.) Let's face it. Sometimes those damn genetics get in our way, especially when it comes to visceral fat which can cause those lovely abs to push outward, giving you the infamous "beer belly."

So how come all the "skinny" girls don't have that rock hard stomach? Simple. They have weak ab muscles. Well, what about me?? I usually bust out about 750 crunches when finishing my workouts and have been doing them for YEARS. I should have a ten-pack, right?? Well, it turns out that my rectus abdominis love me and might be stronger than an ox. But I tend to neglect my deeper transverses abdominis. You will have to focus on these overlooked areas and even your lower back in order to suck in that tummy. A basic crunch will not achieve this. More to come on that later...

Sean loves crunch time!

How is your posture? A poor posture can make you look like you have a bulging belly and good posture can actually help tighten those ab muscles. Just remember ABC: Pull in your abs, tuck in your butt, and put your  chest out with your shoulders down. So all in all, we each have that six-pack. Down there somewhere. I guess it's nice to think we are beautiful on the inside?... might be wishing hard for hard abs right now...

He works hard for those abs!

Here are some great moves to help you get started:


Targets rectus and transverses abdominis, obliques, inner thighs

  • Lie on left side on floor with legs stacked and a rolled up towel between thighs, propping torso on left elbow so that left forearm is perpendicular to torso. Make it easier? Stagger feet so that side of right foot is on floor in front of left foot for a wider base of support.
  • Lift hips so that body forms a straight line from head to toe and squeeze towel between thighs. Hold for one count, then lower.
  • Do 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.


Targets rectus and transverses abdominis

  • Sit on a folded towel on floor with shoulder blades against a wall and knees bent, feet flat. Make sure back is rounded. Place hands on floor near hips, fingertips pressed into floor.
  • Squeeze abs and lift feet off floor, bring knees toward your chest, then straighten legs so toes point toward ceiling. Do 10 pulses. Bring legs 1 inch close to wall then move them back 1 inch. Make it easier? Keep left foot on floor and bring extended right leg toward you by grasping right calf with both hands. Hold for 30 seconds, switch legs, and repeat.
  • Do 3 sets.


Targets rectus abdominis

  • Sit on a folded towel on floor, lean back to rest on elbows, and place feet together on a wall in front of you so that knees are bent 90 degrees.
  • Extend legs up, keeping feet against the wall, then press rounded lower back into floor and squeeze abs as you lift arms to reach toward feet, elbows soft. Make it easier? Press feet into wall as you reach.
  • Do 20 pulses. Curl torso up 1 inch, then lower 1 inch.
  • Do 3 sets, hugging knees to chest to rest between sets.


Targets lower back, rectus and transverses abdominis, obliques, butt

  • Lie face up on floor with back resting on folded towel, knees bent and feet flat on the floor, arms by sides.
  • Cross right ankle onto left thigh just above the knee so bent right knee points out to side; flex left foot so only heel rests on the floor.
  • Rounding lower back and squeezing abs, lift hips off floor so pelvis tilts up towards ribs. Curl pelvis as far as you can without arching back; pull abs in to lift rather than press through left heel. Lower to floor.
  • Do 10 reps, holding the lift for 10 seconds on the final one. Switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.


Targets rectus and transverses abdominis

  • Sit on floor with lower back against a wall, knees slightly bent and feet planted wider than shoulder-width apart. Place hands on floor between legs and squeeze abs.
  • Press into floor with fingertips and lift feet about 6 inches. Make it easier? Lift and lower left foot, then repeat with right to complete 1 rep.
  • Do 3 sets of 20 reps.


Targets rectus and transverses abdominis, obliques

  • Sit on a folded towel on floor with knees bent and feet flat on floor, then lean back to rest on elbows. Press rounded lower back into floor, squeeze abs and curl torso up toward left, lifting arms so that both hands grasp outside of left thigh.
  • Maintaining curl, release hands so that both hover to outside of thigh and do 20 pulses. Curl torso up toward left by 1 inch, then lower 1 inch. Make it easier? Keep hands on thighs for pulses. Make it harder? Raise arms overhead for pulses.
  • Switch sides and repeat. Do 3 sets.


Targets rectus and transverses abdominis, quads, inner thighs, calves

  • Stand facing a wall with legs together, squeezing a rolled up towel between thighs.  
  • With knees slightly bent, hinge forward at hips to place palms on wall, arms extended so that back is nearly parallel to floor.
  • Squeeze abs and towel as you rise onto toes, then do 20 pulses. Lower hips 1 inch, then raise them 1 inch. Make it harder? Start with knees bent 90 degrees so that hips are closer to knee level, then pulse.
  • Do 3 sets.

So, get yourself working on those abs and soon enough you could be looking like my buddy Sean here...

(A big thanks to DCP Photography for the pictures of Sean! To see more pictures of Sean and so many others, check David out! He is amazing!)

I hope to see all of you showing off those abs soon....on your own two feet...

Until the next step bloggers...


  1. I LOVE side planks and bicycles! Great for abs! The Mat Pilates classes I've been taking at the gym are seriously working all of my abs and have started to give me a little definition! I have to take the classes otherwise I knooow I won't do it on my own! Great post!

  2. Great moves in this post! But don't forget that abs are also definitely made in the kitchen!! Gotta eat clean and mean! :)

    And what's the deal with skinny jeans?

  3. awesome post! i am constantly trying to get good abs..i feel like thats my hardest body part. it always amazed me that id run so much and train for races but NOT have giselle abs...what the hell? haha ill try these exercises for sure. thanks!