Ex­perts set the record straight on com­mon myths about the mid­sec­tion.

Shape (Singapore) - - Contents -

MYTH 1/ You can zero in on your lower abs

AB FACT The rec­tus ab­do­mi­nis (or the six­pack) at­taches at the bot­tom of your ster­num and the crest of your pu­bic bone. It’s one long mus­cle, and you can’t iso­late just part of it.

“In all our stud­ies, where you ac­tu­ally mea­sure peo­ple ex­ert­ing against a force, the up­per and lower rec­tus don’t work in­de­pen­dently,” says re­searcher Stu­art McGill, a pro­fes­sor of spine biome­chan­ics at the Univer­sity of Water­loo in Canada and au­thor of Back Me­chanic: The Step-by-step McGill Method to Fix Back Pain.

“The rec­tus acts like a rope, and the ten­sion is equal all along the length of it.” If you’re try­ing to tar­get ex­tra flab in your lower ab­domen, do some high-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing to amp up your calo­rie burn and then head to the mar­ket to buy healthy, whole foods.

A com­bi­na­tion of se­ri­ous calo­rie burn­ing and clean eat­ing is the best way to get rid of belly fat (see Myth 4 for more on this).

MYTH 2/ Abs are made in the kitchen.

AB FACT Not so fast – the gym is missing from that recipe! “Yes, you need to have less belly fat if you want to see the abs, and that re­duc­tion does come pri­mar­ily from diet,” says di­eti­tian Cliff Ed­berg, who is also the na­tional pro­gram man­ager of personal train­ing for Life Time Fit­ness in Min­nesota. “But you still need to train those mus­cles if you want them to be strong.” To do that, tar­get your mid­dle from all an­gles. Throw in to­tal body moves and add weights if you want those ab mus­cles to pop.

MYTH 3/ To im­prove your core strength, you should keep your abs tight all day.y

AB FACT Free the belly! “You wouldn’t walk around with your glutes con­tracted all day or your arm curled half­way up, would you?” says trainer Galina Den­zel, who is also coau­thor of Eat Well, Move Well, Live Well: 52 Ways to Feel Better in a Week.

“Keep­ing your abs pulled in for all that time can put ex­tra pres­sure on your stom­ach, uterus, and blad­der, and de­crease the vol­ume of your lungs.”

Train­ing those core mus­cles cor­rectly dur­ing your work­outs – and learn­ing how to en­gage them and keep them that way while do­ing moves (see Myth 6) – will teach them to au­to­mat­i­cally kick in to sta­bilise you.

MYTH 4/ You have to choose be­tween carbs and your abs.

AB FACT You can have your pasta and cropped tops, too. “In the ’90s we vil­i­fied fat, and now we’re do­ing the same to carbs,” Cliff says. “But they’re part of a healthy diet.” A study in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Clin­i­cal Nutri­tion found that peo­ple who ate four to seven serv­ings of whole grains a day on a low-calo­rie diet, lost twice as much ab fat as a sim­i­lar diet group who ate less than one serv­ing a day. The key is hav­ing a healthy amount of grains, veg­gies, and fruit in­stead of re­fined, pro­cessed carbs, and eat­ing lean pro­tein as well as good­for-you fats, too.

MYTH 5/ The big­ger the move, the better the ab firm­ing.

AB FACT There’s cer­tainly some­thing to be said for work­ing a mus­cle through its en­tire range, but some­times it’s the tiny con­trac­tions that re­ally su­per­charge your mus­cles.

“Think about a side plank, which is an iso­met­ric move,” says Tr­isha Curl­ing, owner of Ani O Yoga in Toronto. “You don’t see any move­ment, but you feel it! And you’re work­ing all your deep sta­bilis­ers – the mul­ti­fidus (along the spine), transver­sus ab­do­mi­nis (360-de­gree band around your cen­tre), and quadra­tus lum­bo­rum (along the back side of the ab­dom­i­nal wall) – plus your rec­tus ab­do­mi­nis and obliques,” she ex­plains. “In ad­di­tion, you’re build­ing heat in­ter­nally, which revs your metabolism.”

An­other great iso­met­ric ex­er­cise: Try farmer car­ries, where you walk back and forth hold­ing a heavy weight in each hand; this lights up the transver­sus ab­do­mi­nis.

MYTH 6/ Your abs are the cen­tre of your core.

AB FACT They’re def­i­nitely cru­cial, but – along with your transver­sus ab­do­mi­nis – the mul­ti­fidus, pelvic floor, and di­aphragm are the deep­est core mus­cles, and if they don’t work cor­rectly, all your other moves will be just a bit weaker.

It’s like build­ing a house on a faulty foun­da­tion. “I had a pa­tient with abs of steel, but she couldn’t fig­ure out why she had back pain,” says phys­i­cal ther­a­pist John Martinez, owner of Australian Physio/ Ther­apy Ex­perts in New York City. “Turns out, her back and pelvic floor were crazy weak. She never spent any time strength­en­ing them.”

Try this “dead bug” move: Lie face up with knees bent over hips and arms straight up over shoul­ders. Pull your belly but­ton in to en­gage those deep mus­cles, lift your pelvic floor up, and draw your rib cage down. Hold those while you breathe. Next, al­ter­nate mov­ing your legs down and up, then arms back and up.

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