Wednesday, June 02, 2010
I have received multiple inquiries as to how I've managed to get my abs into the condition they are after birthing four babies and spending forty-three years on this earth. What I am about to share is nothing earth shattering or new, and you've probably heard it all before, but I thought I'd blog about it so that I can give people my own recipe for ab success when they ask me how to get a nice midsection.
The first thing I want to point out is that there is no magic bullet for getting good abs. I think people really want me to share some literal secret, like drinking a weird vinegar or doing some super-off-the-wall ab move to have tight abs, and that's just not the case. It really is a multi-faceted, yet still simple, approach.
In order from most important to least, here is what I do for a tight midsection.
#1. Diet- Bring your body fat down! It does not matter how well all the tips following this are working- If your beautiful abs are hidden by fat, no one (including you) will be able to see and appreciate them.
#2. Hold 'em in! All the time. As often as you can think of it. Honestly, I'm almost always in an isometric ab contraction. It's a habit. The more you do it, the more automatic it becomes. There is not a single ab exercise out there that does as much for ab flatness and definition as simply contracting your abs as much and as often as possible. Reason? Ab exercises last for just a few minutes. Holding your abs in lasts all day long.
3. Cardio. Same reason as #1. Cardio helps burn fat. Lack of fat means ab visibility.
4. Hold 'em in while doing ab exercises. I can't tell you how many times I've seen someone doing an ab exercise with their abs protruded. The tighter you hold your abs in while working them, the more effective (and harder!) the ab exercise will be.
5. Strengthen your lower back. Your ab and lower back muscles cross over each other. To to have tight abs, you MUST have tight lower back muscles. If you have tight abs and a weak lower back, your abs will have the appearance of being wide, no matter how strong they are. Plus, you will have created a skeletal imbalance. I can't tell you the people I've given this advice to, and after strengthening their lower back they begin to see the V-taper they've been unable to obtain until then.
6. For my actual ab workouts, once a week I usually do 20 minutes of an ab tape. My favorite is Kari Anderson's Curl DVD. But sometimes I will choose two of the ten-minute sections in either Kathy Smith's Tummy Trimmer DVD or 10-Minute Solution Quick Tummy Toners DVD. There are other DVD's out there you could use.
Often I will add another ab workout in the gym a couple of days later (abs are like every other muscle group and need plenty of time to recover between targeted ab workouts). When I do this, I treat them as two different muscle groups: Middle abs (always including both upper and lower in the move), and obliques. I don't isolate upper abs because they are the same muscle running between the rib cage and pelvic bone. Upper abs are not my issue- lower are. So it is much more efficient for me to spend my workout time targeting the area of the muscle that is weakest. I've found that upper abs get tightened in the process.
I do at least three exercises for the middle abs, and two for obliques. Sometimes, I will work them between other muscle groups (for instance, super-set them between back or bicep exercises), and other times I do them back to back to really burn them up. A sample ab workout for me looks like this:
3 Super sets of:
- Reverse Crunch on bench (feet coming down all the way to the ground with control at all times)- 20 reps
- Weighted side bends- 20 reps, each side (challenging weight- you want to FEEL this in the obliques!)
Then 3 Super sets of:
- Captains Chair leg lifts (curl your lower back off the padding to lift your legs, don't just lift them- it's supposed to resemble a reverse crunch!)- 12 reps
- Cable Rope Crunches- 20 reps (weight should be challenging)
- Bicycle Crunches 3x15, alternating sides (15 on each side)
And if I haven't hit lower back by doing something like deadlifts or squats some other time in the week, I'll do 3 sets of a targeted lower back exercise like Supermans or weighted hyperextensions on a Roman Chair.
The only thing I'd say that is negotiable, here, is #6. I know of others who do their ab workout quite differently and get similar results. This is just simply how I prefer to work my abs. In all reality, the way you target exercises for the abs is really just the gravy of the whole process. The meat and potatoes of having beautiful abs lies in the other five steps.
Sunday, May 30, 2010
I added two more products, my favorite Ab workout DVD and a self-tanning product, to my "Products I Have Found Useful" blog here:
urnal_individual.asp?blog_id=3214254 , if anyone is interested.
Thursday, May 27, 2010
I am getting many of requests from people, asking what I did on my cutting diet so they can try it, too. It's starting to disturb me, so I felt it might be a good idea to blog about the subject. Also, maybe this way I can stop typing the same thing over and over again.
The first thing I want to make clear is the purpose of a cutting diet: It's generally for fitness competitors (body building, figure, or bikini) to get max weight off(both fat and, at the end, water) while not only maintaining their current muscle, but also building new. This is so that when they get on stage the judges can clearly see the muscle development the competitor has worked so hard for.
Me? I don't plan to compete until summer of 2011, but was scheduled for a corrective surgery where it was beneficial for the surgeon to see me as close to competition weight and shape as possible.
A cutting diet is NOT something the average Joe (or Jane) should be doing as a tactic for permanent weight loss. Not only is it a fairly extreme way of eating (there is almost no wiggle room in what you eat- I got used to getting food out of my cooler to bring into restaurants to eat with friends and family), but also the competitor gains anywhere from 5-15 pounds back right away after the diet is over. This is because of the reintroduction of more carbs and salt, never mind the fact that they usually feel deprived of "regular" food and go a little nutty with the eating for a while after their show is over.
Furthermore, a cutting diet is NOT something I would recommend ANYone try, particularly the first time out, without professional help. I simply could not have obtained the results I did without the aid of a good coach, and I couldn't have made it through as healthy as I did without his specific cutting diet made just for me.
In other words: Not something that the general public should be attempting.
The things I DID feel others could use from my experience I blogged in my blog "Lessons Learned and Still Applied From My Cutting Diet", right below this one. These are things I felt safe telling people across the board that they could apply to their regular lives.
The other thing I want to point out is that it wasn't just the diet that got me those dramatic results in 12 weeks: I was working out like a fiend! Without strict adherence to a vigorous weight lifting and cardio program, my results would not have been nearly as impressive.
And one other thing: I've heard from several here on Spark who seem to have the impression that they can do a 10 day cutting diet and get results like mine. NOT HAPPENING! My cutting diet was 12 weeks. It amazes me when people ask about my "10-day Cut". The fact is that it was an 84-day cut.
For the record, I weigh about 5 1/2 pounds more than I did when I came off of the cutting diet. This was withOUT the above mentioned nutty eating that most competitors indulge in after their cutting diet is over. It's mainly because I have more water in my system now, due to raised sodium and carbohydrate levels. (You can read my blog "And Unexpected Gain is Nothing to Sweat Over"to find out more about the reason for this.) The photos below were taken 2 days ago, 19 days after the cutting diet was over. I still look pretty good, see?.......
...... But I'm smoother and not as "cut" as I was in my final photos the day the cutting diet was done.
So the long and short of it is: Unless you have a competitive or fitness related reason for needing to go on a cutting diet, I'd advise you not try it. Ask me for recommendations on good coaches. (There is one roaming around here on Spark I would NOT recommend for reasons I can share with you privately.) Read my blog further ahead titled "Moving past a weight Loss Plateau" for a formulation on how you can lose weight (this is a GREAT plan and requires no membership fees). Or join Weight Watchers! That's how I lost my first 38 pounds. Then post your own photos, bragging your progress with "after" photos that you can actually walk around looking like!
Friday, May 21, 2010
So as many know, I completed my cutting diet just over 2 weeks ago. I'm surprised to say that my eating now more resembles the cutting diet than it does the way I ate BEFORE the cutting diet, which was really not that bad.
Here are some valuable things I learned that I thought I'd share:
- I cook ahead. This is something I told my coach I didn't want to do in the start. I'd rather just cook what I was going to for that day. But it didn't take me long to figure out that it took just about the same amount of time to make a big pot of brown rice as a small one. Last night my daughter and I had sweet potatoes for dinner. I threw extra into the oven and then tossed it into the fridge when the meal was over. I don't set aside a time on the weekends to cook for the week like a lot of people do, but now when I do cook something I can use for meals later on, I'll make extra.
- I have started to eat more "real" food and less protein powder and protein bars, which are convenient but leave me hungrier than whole foods.
- I eat a great, big breakfast. Before breakfast was maybe a small bowl of whole-grain cereal with raisins and a cup of milk. Now it's slow-cook oatmeal with natural peanut butter stirred in, a whole egg with several (usually 5) egg whites, and often a piece of fruit. This helps me to not be as hungry the rest of the day and really fuels me well for my usually up-coming weight lifting session. Breakfast is usually now my biggest meal of the day.
- I eat fish now, voluntarily. It's not my favorite, but I don't despise it anymore. My favorite is Tilapia. Well, my REAL favorite is halibut, but at eighteen bucks a pound, that ain't happenin'! Maybe one day soon I'll work up the nerve to try salmon again......
- Before I go to bed I have a scoop of casein powder, in milk if my daily calories allow it, or water if they don't. My coach had me doing this to give my body something to gnaw on other than muscle while I slept. I'd rather like my muscles and endeavor to keep them, so I've kept it up.
- I usually drink at least a gallon of water a day. I can't remember if I started this on the cutting diet or if it just kinda came along with the cutting territory, but I find my body does a lot better with plenty of plain old water coursing through it. I am not as likely to binge, have fewer cravings, and feel less lethargic when I drink this much. My complexion is the clearest it's been since I was about eleven, and I often wonder if the water is a lot of the reason why.
- I don't eat as many carbs in the evening as I used to. I won't go into the specifics because this blog is long enough, but I prefer to get my starchier carbs early in the day, when they can be burned off by fueling me through my activities.
I hope that you picked up a thing or two here that you can implement into your own diet to help you along on your journey to fitness. As always, I love getting your comments and feed back, so please don't hesitate to respond!
Monday, May 10, 2010
Along the way there have been products I have found particularly useful in my quest for fitness. In case it might help others, here are some of them:
- LaBrada Lean Body Gold Bars. I order them from vitadigest.com www.vitadigest.com/leanbody-bar-pean
ut.html . You can buy them at GNC, but vitadigest is the lowest price I have found. The more you order, the cheaper shipping is. At 330 calories a piece I cut these bars in half, but they are a great balance of carbs, protein, and fat. And they taste like a candy bar! Caramel Peanut is my favorite. (I had a recommendation for another bar here, but the company raised the price so high for the minimal bulk discount that I now feel like the LaBrada bars are the best value.)
- The book Sculpting Her Body Perfect by Brad Schoenfeld. This is my favorite female exercise book. He has very good plans explained for both starting and advancing in your weight lifting efforts, as well as demonstrations of the exercises and a DVD of the execution of many of them, as well.
- Kari Anderson's "Curl" DVD. 20-mintues of GREAT ab work! By and far my favorite ab DVD.
- HERS Magazine, by Muscle and Fitness. This is my favorite women's fitness magazine. It's not fluffy! This is the real deal of how to get fit and stay that way.
- Oxygen Magazine. Also non-fluffy, a close second to HERS. It'd be my first recommendation, were it not for it's unabashed plugging of Tosca Reno's (the wife of the Oxygen Publisher, Robert Kennedy) Eat Clean Diet books.
- Now you're gonna laugh, but Clean Eating Magazine by- you guessed it- Robert Kennedy Publishing. I like the magazine better than her book. Seems somehow more adaptable to real life to me than her actual eating plan in the book.
The three above magazines are the only fitness/food magazines I subscribe to. The rest are just too fluffy for me.
- Banana Boats' Summer Color self-tanner in Deep Dark Color. See me getting darker in my cutting diet pics? It's this self-tanner. You can get it at WalMart for about $6 a tube. I like it- didn't turn me orange! But a warning- If you apply it frequently like I did (about every day for a week or so, then every other day for several weeks) it starts having patches that don't stick so good anymore and starts looking silly. And then you have to go through the molting process to get it off, which isn't pretty at all.... But it was a great tanner for it's purposes! I'd recommend using it once a day, after exfoliating in the shower, for 3 days (if you want to get that dark) and then cut down to once every third day or so to avoid this.
- Natures Own Sandwich Rounds. I think Orowheat makes an almost identical product. At one Weight Watchers point (100 cals, 5g fiber, 1g fat) per, these make a fantastic sandwich.
- GNC Whey Protein Powder. It's more cost-effective than many of the protein powders out there, and I think taste better than most. If you have the GNC Gold card you can purchase their products through the 8th of every month, I believe it is, for a 20% discount. For me, the price of the card has more than paid off.
- Moving Comfort Women's Fiona Bra ( www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001AP3SEY
/ref=oss_product ) This sports bra keeps my girls in check and if I get too hot I can strip down to just it on top in the gym without looking frumpy or like I am wearing my lingerie. I don't bother buying any other, since I am fairly big-busted and positively hate bounce.
- Aussie Sprunch Spray. Works as both a styling product in wet hair and a hairspray. I just toss a full-size bottle of this in my gym bag and it lasts quite a while.
- David Greenwalt's book "The Leanness Lifestyle". This book has a very sound plan for true fitness a lifestyle, not just a temporary fix. I see it is sold on Amazon.com. Although I parted ways with David Greenwalt when I tried his Leanness Lifestyle University on-line (he wasn't quite as gentle as I prefer a coach to be), his book is my fitness bible to this day, and I refer to it often. I actually combined his macro-nutrient suggestion (emphasising more protein than I had been eating) with Weight Watchers point system and accountability for very good results.
I'd love to hear of any products you have found beneficial. I always love finding new things that help me along in my journey!
Of course, the most important tool in reaching fitness is your own determination and focus. Keep reminding yourself that you are worth it- because you are!
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