Muffin tops, beer bellies, lower-belly pouches. Chances are you’ve looked down and made eye contact with at least one of these unwanted physical fitness hosts. And if you’re here, it means you’re ready to evict them from your body for good.
The first thing you should know is that there’s no such a thing as “lower abs.” Fitness Builder explains that the upper and lower abs are actually one muscle called the Rectus Abdominis and that years of infomercials have spread the myth that you can “sculpt” the lower half of your belly by just paying $29.99 in six easy installments.
So, if you want to tone those mythical “lower abs”, you better be ready to put your whole abdominal wall—and your whole body—to work!
“When I train, I don’t necessarily separate body parts. I don’t separate things into, for example, biceps and triceps, I go more for the functional-type training,” says Bobby Maximus. Bobby is an MMA fighter, strength coach and co-author of Maximus Body: The Physical and Mental Training Plan That Shreds Your Body, Builds Serious Strength and Makes You Unstoppably Fit. “That’s what I recommend to people unless you’re in bodybuilding. I just do exercises that target the entire area and have a functional application to the real world.”
Bobby believes that if you’re serious about changing the shape of your body so it’s more athletic overall, you need to look at it as a whole rather than compartmentalizing the way you exercise. “It works better that way,” he says. “People who do these isolation exercises, never progress or get that six-pack that they really want, so why keep doing it? Sitting in front of the TV and doing 100 crunches is just not gonna work. Or try a little ab machine. You want real athletic movement so you can achieve an athletic body.”
So we asked Bobby what exercises he recommends for people who really want to engage those problematic abs. Here are his top 5 moves.
1. Plank Hold (also called a “Pushup Position Plank”). For this exercise, you’ll want to assume the pushup position, with your arms and torso completely straight. Then just hold the position. “One of the common errors people make with this,” says Bobby, “Is that they try to hang on. What you want to do is to make it as difficult as possible by pushing your feet and hands through the ground and keeping your midsection as tight as possible. So flex your abs the entire time.”
2. Feet-to-Hands. To do this, you need to hang from a pullup bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. Then raise your legs, bringing your feet to your hands. Pause and lower your legs to the starting position. “It really helps that when you start this movement with your legs, slightly pull yourself up and engage your lats,” says Bobby, “And then lean back so your feet can come to your hands at the top of the pullup bar position.”
3. Knees-to-elbows. Hang from a pullup bar with your body straight. Bring your knees up to your elbows, tucking your pelvis. Then slowly lower your legs. “It’s basically an easier version of the feet-to-hands exercise,” says Bobby, “You hang from a pullup bar, your body straight. Then, you’re gonna pull up ever so slightly, and then you’re gonna pull up your knees to your elbows.”
4. Curl up. First, lie with your back and feet flat on the floor, your knees bent 90 degrees and your arms down by your sides. Then, curl your torso up, so your shoulders lift off the floor, keeping your neck and head straight. Try to reach your fingertips two inches forward. Pause, then lower yourself back down. “It’s essentially like a really strict crunch,” says Bobby.
5. Leg Raise Hold. Start by laying down on your back, your hands at your side and your body straight. Raise your feet a few inches off the floor while keeping your legs straight. Hold the position for as long as you can.
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