For many people, achieving a defined abdominal area seems to be a nearly impossible goal, one for which we purchase a variety of abdominal trainers with the hope that they live up to their advertised claims of attaining “six-pack abs.” Unfortunately, achieving a slim and defined midsection is more challenging than simply using one piece of equipment.
To really develop toned abdominal muscles, you must take into account a combination of
• genetics and body type
• diet and nutritional support
• cardiovascular training
• strength-training exercises
Your natural body shape, combined with your diet, will dictate much of the results you obtain from abdominal exercises. Some people naturally gain more midsection weight— called visceral fat—that can be particularly challenging to shed because it is located deep inside the abdomen where it surrounds the abdominal organs.
Evidence suggests that a diet high in refined carbohydrates can lead to increased visceral fat. While you need not eliminate carbohydrates, a focus on whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, along with lean proteins, dairy, and nuts, may help reduce visceral fat.
Strength training to condition your core can result in a more defined midsection, provided exercises and breathing patterns are performed correctly. While equipment works well for some people, others do just fine with traditional crunches, assuming they use proper form and breathing. For the results of strength training to be visible, you will need to perform a cardiovascular exercise for overall fat reduction. Aim to get your heart rate up to a moderate-to-high intensity level approximately three times a week.
Not only will the aesthetic aspects of strong, defined abdominals be rewarding but you can improve your back, posture, and overall core strength, as well. To help you accomplish this goal, we can design a program that is safe, manageable, and most importantly, effective.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kim Gladfelter, MPT, OCS, FAAOMPT
Women's Health Physical Therapy Specialist at PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness
Kim Gladfelter is a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, educator, author, and co-founder of PhysioFit Physical Therapy & Wellness. She is known as a keen, well-rounded expert of healing through movement and women’s health specialist in the Silicon Valley area.
Kim has helped men and women of all ages to stay active and feel their best. She also writes about managing pain in her health columns, blogs and the local Los Altos Town Crier newspaper as well as reaches out to the local community, support groups, schools, libraries, and sports centers to advise and educate on body awareness and therapeutic exercise.