Now that we're into April, it's time to start dreaming of beaches, bikinis, and basking in that glorious summer sun. If you're like...well, just about everyone else, you want to be able to show off your flat, toned abs while you're frolicking in the sand and surf -- but you're also probably clueless as to which of the many boot camp programs to use to get those results.
Ditch the DVDs and instead try these five quick tips from Rusty McKinney, Bentley's assistant football coach, to help you tone your abdominal muscles safely and effectively.
Understand the value of your core. “The primary purpose of your core muscles is to stabilize your spine and help you maintain good posture," McKinney said. Everyday activities -- “carrying groceries, picking up a child/pet, throwing a baseball, and vacuuming,” he said -- use your core muscles, so consistently focus on proper posture. "When you have a strong core, you not only have strong abs, you have better posture, and you are at less risk for not only back and neck injuries but also ankle, knee, hip, and shoulder injuries."
Start slow. “All body weight core activity is the best way to get started,” McKinney said. He also recommended avoiding the typical "pull your belly button into your back" tip until you're further along in your quest; instead, focus on tightening your abdominal muscles as you perform the task, no matter how basic.
Recognize the power of three. Your abdominals include upper, lower, and oblique (side) sections, which are are further broken down into individual muscles, so flat, toned abs require concentrating on not just one muscle area, but three. Different exercises and routines can specifically target each section, McKinney said, developing a solid and good-looking core. For your upper abs, use a stability ball to do crunches (if you're a beginner) or do jackknife sit-ups (if you're in the more advanced crowd). For your lower abs, try dead bugs if you want something slightly challenging; the truly dedicated can do hanging leg raises. Finally, for the obliques, basic side bends are a good newbie exercise, but fitness masters can try the Russian twist.
Don't try to show off. Everyone's physical needs are different. If you're new to the gym or just doing a new exercise, get a physician or trainer to check out your form. "Never build strength on top of dysfunction," McKinney said. "If you have something that is not working correctly or a history of injuries, then there is a good chance you are not moving correctly.”
Accompany your workout with a good diet. To ensure optimal results, choose a proper diet to go along with your exercises. Some of the best foods for flat abs are almonds, berries, yogurt, salmon, and eggs. Incorporate these foods into your diet to supplement your quest.
What are your tips for toned abs?
Photo by Kris Kesiak Photography (Flickr)
About Lacey -- With a passion for liberal arts and an addiction to excessive writing, I somehow ended up at a business school. I currently attend Bentley, where I plan to major in economics and finance. In an attempt to hang on to my true devotion, I write for the news section of the Vanguard. For me, the greatest thrill of the job is conducting interviews and listening intently as people reveal their stories.
The author is solely responsible for the content.