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Get a Six Pack This Summer

"Why settle for a six-pack when you can have the whole keg!" That's the line used by a friend of mine who's always battled with weight. He's done thousands of sit-ups over the years but has never achieved the legendary "washboard" stomach. Why?

Because he hasn't reduced his body fat percentage. Abs generally won't show until your body fat falls below 15% for men, or 18% for women, and exercise alone won't get you there.

It takes three things.

First is Diet. (Doesn't it always come down to what you eat?) If you're carrying around too much fat, you probably need to reduce your caloric intake. That means eating less and choosing foods that are lower in fats and sugars.

Second is Cardio. You have to do at least three cardio vascular workouts every week. You'll want to build up to a minimum of 30 minutes per session. As you increase the frequency, duration and intensity of your workouts it will push your metabolism into high gear and your body will burn more calories.

Finally Ab Exercises. Concentrate on proper form and quality. You only need to do fifteen or twenty minutes of ab exercises, two or three times per week. Don't work your abs everyday or you'll over train them. Your abs are muscles that have to recover just like any other body part.

Quick anatomy lesson.

The abs are made up of three areas. The upper abdominals, which are directly below the chest; the lower abdominals, which are below your belly button; and the obliques located on the sides of your waist. You have to do exercises that target all three areas.

Here are three ab exercises, each targeting different areas, that I find work well.

Upper Abs: Crunch - Start by lying down with your back flat on the floor and your knees up. Place your hands behind your head. Curl your shoulders up and forward until your upper back lifts off the floor. DO NOT use your hands to pull you up or put any pressure on the back of your head. Once your upper back is off the floor, flex your ab muscles and hold that position for up to two seconds. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor. Slowly return to the start position.

Upper Abs: Crunch Start Upper Abs: Crunch Finish
Upper Abs: Crunch Start
Upper Abs: Crunch Finish

Lower Abs: Knee Up - Start by lying down with your back flat on the floor, your feet up and thighs perpendicular. (You will look like you're sitting on a chair but with your back on the floor.) Place your hands behind your head. Curl your hips toward your spine to rotate the pelvis backwards. Your knees will lift up but all the action is coming from the hips.

Lower Abs: Knee Up Start Lower Abs: Knee Up Finish
Lower Abs: Knee Up Start
Lower Abs: Knee Up Finish

Obliques: Oblique Twist - Start by lying down with your back flat on the floor and your left knee up. Place your right ankle on your left knee. Put your right arm straight out and your left hand behind your head. Curl your left shoulder up towards your hip. (Don't try to bring your elbow to your knee.) Once your shoulders are off the floor twist and feel a squeeze in the opposite side of the waist. Keep your lower back pressed to the floor. Slowly return to the start position. Once you finish your set switch sides and repeat.

Obliques: Oblique Twist Start Obliques: Oblique Twist Finish
Obliques: Oblique Twist Start
Obliques: Oblique Twist Finish

Finally, work abs at the end of your training session. If you do ab exercises first you run the risk of leaving them too weak for the remainder of your workout.

Now that you know what to do, what are you waiting for?

Want a custom workout built just for you? Check out our online training programs here.

CAUTION: Always perform abdominal exercises on a padded mat or surface to protect your back.

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CAUTION: Check with your doctor before
beginning any diet or exercise program.

7/24/2003