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Abdomen trimming tips
By Anup Deb Nath

THOUGH the human body consists of many areas, the focus of a large majority of people is the abdomen area. This area seems to be the weakest point of, shall we call it, the entire human race. Exaggeration apart, the abdomen does have a tendency to gather and keep weight on it, and seems to defy all attempts to dislodge the weight easily.

This tendency to gather fat around the middle accelerates after the thirties and then men and women are both equally prone to what is often dubbed as the ‘middle age spread’. Hereditary, a sedentary life style, lowered BMR, post-pregnancy, these are all some of the many reasons that contribute towards the abdomen losing its muscle tone and becoming a problem area.

During our normal day, even when we don’t exercise, many of our body parts do feel some movement. While walking around the house or at work, our legs, thighs, calves and certain parts of our butt also get involved. Sitting on a chair means using our back, butt and thigh muscles, while all lifting and picking motions work our upper body like the arms and shoulders. Possibly the least used area during our normal day-to-day life is the stomach or abdomen area and perhaps this is the very reason why it becomes such a problem for most of us. There are many queries that people have regarding reducing fat from their abdomen; from simple ones of how often to work the abdomen to others detailing what type of exercises to do, to even more specific ones about reducing from a particular portion of the abdomen. While there certainly is no magic exercise that can take away your bulging abdomen problems, there certainly are some pointers to get you started onto doing abdomen exercises in a more effective way.

l Lie down and bend your knees with your feet flat on the ground and close to your butt.

lTry to lie your lower back touching the mat or floor. This will give you better abdominal crunches with fewer back problems.

l To isolate exactly which part of the abdomen you want to work out, keep your entire body still and only tense your abdomen muscles. Do this by moving your rib cage toward your pelvis. This movement allows you to work on only the abdomen muscles and, therefore, is more effective.

l While lying down to do abdomen crunches ensure that you tilt your pelvis and your lower back stays constantly on the mat and doesn’t arch or lift up. Some studies have found that abdominal muscle activity actually doubled when a pelvic tilt was maintained during the exercise, as compared to the people who did not maintain the pelvic tilt.

l Work your abdomen repetitions slowly. Most people tend to think that the faster they do their abdomen exercises, and the more they do, the better of they will be. In fact the slower you work out on each repetition, the better it is. You can develop better muscles by a controlled, slower movement rather than a fast one, where the body moves more on momentum than using muscle control.

Abdomen exercises can be largely divided into upper and lower abdomen exercises. The abdomen does not consist of separate muscles that you can pick on to work on, say, your lower abdomen or upper, which is why most exercises will work out the entire abdomen area. The abdomen consists of clusters of muscles which are separated by connective tissue. You can focus on and work out the upper or lower area by moving just the torso for the upper abdomen and the pelvis for the lower abdomen.

Most of the abdomen exercises that involve the legs moving like leg lifts or cycling lifts work the lower abdomen muscle clusters, while the exercises that involve only the upper body like simple sit-ups and cross-knee crunches work on the upper abdomen. Where you are doing exercises that involve lifting both your upper as well as your lower body, like doing sit-ups along with lifting your butt, these work your entire abdomen wall as a whole.

What order should you do your abdomen exercises in is a puzzling question for many. Here again there is no hard and fast rule that applies to everyone but there are a few pointers to make the exercises easier to do and complete as well.

l When you do any exercises for the abdomen, try to start with the easier exercises first and keep the tougher ones for the latter part of the routine.

l Try to do about 15-30 repetitions of the exercise. Go on the higher scale where the exercise is easier and lower end where they are tougher.

l Try not to rest between exercises for the lower and upper abdomen but a 10 second break is all right between two sets of the same exercise.

l Try to take about 5-7 seconds for each repetition. This will seem excessive to the beginners but as you develop muscle control it will become easier and more effective as well.

l Breathe out as you go up and in as you come down. Don’t hold your breath while doing your exercises.

Many people feel that a problem area only goes if it is worked hard and ruthlessly everyday. So it is not uncommon to see some people go on doing abdomen crunches after abdomen crunches while the rest of the class is working out the many other parts of the body. Interestingly enough, despite the repeated onslaught of exercise by these people on the abdomen, it seems to stay on just as it was.

There are just as many expert opinions on how often is it best to work your abdomen muscles as there are exercises. While some swear by the daily dose, others insist three times a week is the best, and there is one opinion which feels a 36 hour gap is a must to let that body part recover before working it again.Back

This feature was published on July 4, 1999

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