Monday, March 12, 2012

Building an Ab

#1 Trainer Question:  "How do I get rid of this?"   (Client pulling rigorously on muffin top)

Unfortunately, the answer is almost never what they wanted or expected to hear. But I give it to em' anyway!  Ironically, I'm in the same boat as I work toward my Resolution of producing one abdominal muscle that is visible to the naked eye.  I've always carried any extra weight right around the middle so attempting this at 42 is a definite challenge!  As I move closer to that one precious ab, it's time for me to take my own medicine and employ these reminders...

Core exercises should be a part of any exercise routine - just like biceps, shoulders, quads, etc.  Abdominal exercises help to develop and strengthen the wall of muscles below the fat but you're never specifically burning the belly fat. Through exercise in general, you're creating a greater need for fuel and hopefully your body will use a bit of fat to help fuel the machine.

Remember that your "core" doesn't just mean your stomach.  It encompasses your entire torso and half of your "core" is made up of your lower & mid back. All of your core muscles work together in a beautiful symphony to hold you upright. A strengthened core makes you look taller (good news!) and it helps you do everything better - from yoga, to running, to sex (even more good news!). Remember to take time for back exercises!

Further, your body will decide which fat will leave the building first.  During my years at a women's gym I measured about 1000 clients per month.  That's A LOT of time with a tape measure!  There are exceptions to every rule but generally, women seemed to lose weight from the top down.  Especially when there are "rolls" involved.   Their faces thin out, then the boobs deflate a bit, then the waist starts to get smaller but the hips get a little bigger... the fat seemed to travel slowly downward before disappearing. Unfair?  Yes.

The final nail in the coffin is the unchangeable fact that your abs are ultimately built in the kitchen.  It's your food choices that eventually make the abs visible.  You can have a rocked abdominal wall but you'll never see it if you don't lose the fat sweater they're all bundled up in... snuggly warm.  With regard to diet, I operate on a vegetarian Four Hour Body system.  You will need to find what works for you but I can assure you that bread, pasta and rice don't contribute to losing body fat.  Eating dough makes me look like dough.   Sad but true.

The incredible benefit of reducing your body fat is reducing your chances of heart disease.  Heart disease is the number one killer of American women annually. FIVE times more than breast cancer.  Some risk factors are beyond our control but the increased risk due to carrying visceral fat in the midsection is  something we can control.  Take it off the table!  The goal here is longevity my friends.  I may want one fab ab as a fun New Year's Resolution but the endgame for everything I do is to stay on this planet in health for as long as possible.

A note about form:

If you've gotta work them, you might as well get the most bang for your buck. You might also want to shoot for a flat stomach instead of a rounded one!  When we work our abdominal wall and allow our tummies to push OUT, we are creating a rounded abdominal wall.  Not cool.

To help create a flat abdominal wall, the visual that works best for me is to think of my core (shoulder to shoulder/hip bone to hip bone) as an accordion.  When I am fully extending in abdominal exercise, I inhale making the accordion stretched long with no folds... as I begin to contract and exhale, I think of the accordion compressing - low and flat - expelling the air down and away.  I use this with my clients in every  core exercise and it usually gets an "Aha!" look so hopefully it will be of use to you too :)

My very favorite core exercises:

Myotatic Crunches a la 4HB
Start:  Bum close to the ground but still on the bosu, arms extending long like I'm diving with fingertips grazing the ground.  My accordion is LONG!
Mid Way:  Arms stay in line with the ears.  Accordion compressing low and flat - no rounding of the belly.

Top: Take a pulse at the top and give it a good squeeze!  Take 3 or 4 counts to lower back to the start.
Thanks to my friend Poonam for taking these pics this morning!

Hanging Crunches (Not a video of me but she has decent technique if you're unsure)

Plank + Side Plank (Also not me! This quick video shows the technique better than still photos.)

If you're on the same road, good luck!  I've got a little under 50 days to reach this goal.  With a little perseverance and this sign on my refrigerator door, I just might make it!


  1. Great read - keep up the good work and writings. Hopefully I see the abs on the beach in Barbados this year :)

  2. God willing on ALL fronts David! Thanks for the encouragement :) L

  3. Great post Lauren! You are a beautiful model!

  4. Thanks Ang! I tried to use something from the internet but it just wasn't working! I didn't think I would actually USE these pics - might have been nice to run a brush through my "morning trainer" hair! Oh well, I guess my abs don't care if I don't brush my hair :)

  5. This is really great Lauren! Very inspiring!

  6. Trainers for example have the latest info on abdominal exercise machines and know the best brands.