Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Workout Wednesday: Functional Ab Exercises

Welcome to Workout Wednesday. From here on out, every Wednesday, I will feature a post dedicated to health, fitness or overall wellness. This one’s for you BA by special request :)

Please let me preface this post by saying I am a fitness instructor. I am speaking from my own experiences. I do not have a doctor’s degree. You can do the following exercises below at your own risk. I will not be held accountable :)

I get a lot of questions from women who want to know how to get rid of the baby fat they’ve accumulated around their mid-drift. There seems to be a myth out there that you can spot reduce. WRONG – you can’t.

What I like to tell people is that you have to do a workout for your entire body. You can include special abdominal sculpting exercises to enhance the abs but you can’t just work the abs. Trust me – I’d love to move fat from my stomach and my butt and place it on my boobs – but unless I go under the knife – this won’t be happening anytime soon.

The abdominals are not just a six pack and obliques. I know we all want defined abs because we can see them but it’s important to recognize the core as one unit. Without a strong core the rest of the body will suffer. What is the core? Well it it starts at your shoulders and extends down to your pelvis.

Next let me define “Functional Ab Excercises”. Functional training is doing an exercise that simulates something you would do in real everyday life. Most exercises for the abdominal region are static or stationary. We want to perform exercises in all aspects of our workout that coincide with everyday life to get the most benefit from them.

The PLANK is probably the most popular functional ab exercise. It trains the body to stabilize the spine. Start by lying face first on the floor. Place your forearms on the ground and hold with your knees on the floor, or if you want more, tuck your toes and hold. Make sure your shoulders are stacked directly over your elbows. There should be a straight line from the shoulders down the back to the hips, knees and ankles. There should be no stress on the lower back at all. Work up to 1 minute intervals.

Do this 5 days a week for a couple of months and you will be guaranteed to see a visual change to the ab region as long as you’ve combined it with some cardio workouts and muscle conditioning workouts throughout the week. It’s also essential to watch your diet!!

You can also add to the plank by taking it over to one side “SIDE PLANK”. Where 1 forearm remains on the ground as you rotate your body to the side, either with both feet on the floor or 1 knee down (make sure the knee is back and in line with your hip). I always tell my class to think / feel as though you are between 2 pieces of glass – sandwiched in. Be sure to press through on your hips. As you improve, you can add layers of complexity to this exercise – I’ll save this for a later date.

I think “Mountain Climbers” are also an effective functional way to train the core. Start in a horse stance with your knees under your hips and hands on the floor with shoulders over wrists. Now walk your feet back until your butt is in line with your spine. Imagine yourself in a plank position. Start by bringing 1 knee under your body across to the opposite elbow. Keep your hips low / flat and in line with the rest of your body and avoid twisting. Alternate legs. This can also be done on your knees – in this case – you would bring 1 knee to the outside of the SAME elbow.

Balancing is also another great way to work the core. This can be done easily at home without any equipment. There are so many different ways to balance. Try holding 1 knee level with your hip. Repeat other side. If you like, you can extend 1 leg forward. You can take a leg to the side. You can rotate your leg behind while tipping your body forward. There are so many exercises – there really is no limit.

Give some of them a try and let me know what you think. Be safe, stay healthy and have fun!

Simply Yours,

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