Saturday, November 28, 2009

Washboard Abs

One of the most commonly asked questions I receive is about how to achieve 'rockhard' abs. Clearly the stomach is one the biggest trouble zones for men and women. However, due to biological predispositions women tend to struggle with this more (either that or they are more concerned about it).

So if you are doing extreme amounts of crunches and feel like you have tried everything in hopes of achieving washboard abs you are not alone. Abdominal exercises are some of the most common exercises performed by everyone from beginners to elite athletes. However, to get a flat stomach you need to do more than just ab exercises, you see, everyone has the ability to get a six-pack, it is often just hiding under a layer (or two) of belly fat. So the key is to reduce your belly fat in order to start showing that stomach.

There are a combination of things you can do to kick start your Perfect Stomach transformation:

Abdominal Exercises

There are many exercises you can do that are simple and can be done at home to help strengthen all your abdominal muscles. I recommend getting an exercise ball (they have these in virtually every gym as well). Using the ball for crunches requires that you stabilize your torso while balanced on the ball and you end up using more muscles than when performing standard crunches. However a few of my favorite abs exercises include:

-The bicycle
-Leg Lifts
-Scissor Legs

I recommend 2 by 30 seconds of each exercise


For most people (including myself) this is the hardest part!

In order to eliminate body fat and ‘tone up’ requires proper nutrition. Contrary to many fad diet beliefs, to achieve long lasting results a balanced diet of carbohydrate, protein and fat is crucial. Eating several small meals throughout the day helps many people stay more satisfied and reduces hunger.

Other successful tips for reducing fat and avoiding weight gain include:

-getting enough calcium
-eating breakfast
-eating high fiber foods
-staying well-hydrated by drinking water throughout the day

Also make sure not to cut calories too drastically or you could inadvertently lower your metabolism.

Cardio Exercise

I think this is one of the most critical components of a great stomach. I do not believe in spot reduction; for example, you cannot do 100 crunches and expect perfect abs. You need to perform aerobic activity – the more intense, and the more dynamic the better. This site provides all kinds of great examples of workouts you can try. Cardio, especially intense cardio, blasts calories and burns fat and will be the key to an overall great physique.

Core Exercise

You can also perform core stability exercises to improve your torso strength, balance and stability – this is the essence of Pilates classes. Your core is made up of the abdominals, lower back and hips and creates a foundation for all other movement. These muscles stabilize the spine and create a strong center around which the extremities can move. A strong core is important in every aspect of movement; especially power movements.

The plank exercise is a good indicator of core strength. Test your own core strength by seeing how long you can hold a plank position, work up to a one minute hold.

Again, I stress, there is no single isolated exercise that will breed perfect abdominals, it's a combination of things that must be incorporated into your everyday lifestyle.


  1. Amanda - I am a cyclist and having my knee scoped. It will put me off the bike for two months. Besides eating well what are some ways to stay slim and fit if I can't run, walk or ride? I am not huge on weight lifting but open to ideas. Thanks - Jeremy

  2. Hi Jeremy,
    I completely understand your concern, and being an active/fit person, I know how important it is, both mentally and physically, to be able to continue to work up a sweat.
    Your situation sounds like anything with impact will be out of the question - but there are some other cardio forms that are exceptional workoutsand ones in which you may end up sticking with for the long term.
    I recommend getting in the pool as the best resource. Whether you swim or run in the water (see my article for pool workouts) you can get an incredible workout in the water and likely will become leaner than you were with cycling alone.
    Another option is the elliptical or 'arc trainer' - which are both cardio machines found at almost every gym. You should try both and see what you like, and most importantly what doesn't bother your knee. My best advice is if it makes it hurt - just stop, but you won't know unless you try.
    I know you may be opposed to these other cardio machines, but trust me, they work - in fact, I know a man who had a stress fracture and trained for an entire marathon on the arc trainer. Over time you can actually try interval workouts on the elliptical or arc and get in incredible shape. Plus it's a great cross-train for the bike.
    Both the pool and the cardio machines will help keep your fitness level in tact and your waistline trim.

    Hope this helps, let me know how it goes!

    here is an example of a pool workout I do a lot - it's a great workout!