Doing crunches won't get you abs by summer. Try these personal-trainer-approved exercises and some nutrition advice instead.
- A strong core is a coveted sign of
fitness- but you don't need a six-pack to be healthy.
- If you are working on your abs, focus on good nutrition and consistency, one personal trainer says.
- Prioritize compound exercises like deadlifts and squats instead of crunches and curls.
A strong core not only looks impressive on the beach, but it also helps you have better posture and avoid injury during workouts.
Abs are a coveted symbol of fitness, but getting them can be frustrating if you rely on misinformation and false advertising instead of evidence-based advice.
Trying to gain a muscular midsection by spending too much time on spot training - or looking for a quick fix - can take you further from your goals, according to Irving "Zeus" Hyppolite, personal trainer and founder of House Of Zeus in New York.
Instead, you should dial in your nutrition, keep your workouts consistent, and include a good mix of cardio and strength training for best results in the shortest time, he said.
Don't try to spot-reduce fat. Focus on good nutrition instead.
It's a myth that you can spot-train, or reduce fat in certain areas like the stomach, by targeting them with
To make the muscles of your core more visible, you have to focus on your overall body composition, the ratio of body fat or lean muscle mass.
That means good nutrition is key, particularly as the weather warms up and more people are enjoying picnics, outdoor cocktails, and more.
"People throw caution to the window in the summer with events and barbecues, which is fine, but we want to make sure we're managing nutrition," Hyppolite said.
To reduce body fat, you must be in a calorie deficit, which means you burn more calories that you consume, on average. How you do this can vary, and some diet strategies for fat loss are easier and more sustainable than others. Without a plan, though, no amount of exercise will make your abs pop.
"If you're eating wrong, it doesn't matter how many sit-ups you do. You're not going to get the look that you want," Hyppolite said.
Target every part of your core
When most people think of an ab workout, they tend to picture sit-ups, crunches, or maybe leg lifts.
But those exercises only hit a few of the muscles that make up your core, according to Hyppolite. For well-defined abs, you need to work on your entire midsection, including your sides (obliques) and lower back.
Mountain climbers, Russian twists, and side planks are great exercises that Hyppolite recommends when working on these often ignored areas of your core.
If you want abs, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is avoiding the weight room. Hyppolite said weighted exercises like deadlifts, squats, and rows are some of the best ways you can work your core muscles.
Using a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells forces you to stabilize your whole body to control the weight throughout the movement, which is great for building a rock solid core and full-body strength.
As a bonus, big weights also burn more calories, which can help if you're trying to lose body fat.
Don't forget cardio
Another mistake people make is relying on hours of running or lifting weights alone. If you're trying to shed body fat to reveal your abs, you want the best of both worlds.
"People don't do enough cardio," Hyppolite said. "Keep functional strength training in your workout, but end with some cardio, even if it's just a walk. That way you maximize your calorie burning."
Even the best workout and nutrition plan won't work if you can't stick to it. To get results, make sure you can keep putting in the work, week after week. "The first step is creating a consistent schedule," Hyppolite said.
If you're trying to make major progress in a relatively short time, like a few months, aim to work out for about an hour a day, five days a week, he said.
A sample workout would include a warm-up, strength training such as squats and rows, a few circuits of core exercises, and about 20 to 30 minutes of cardio at the end of your workout to maximize calorie burn.
Set realistic goals, and stick to them
It's also helpful to plan out what you want to achieve, how much time you have to do it, and track your progress.
"It's about managing your expectations. Some people are picking up the gym really late and want to lose 50 pounds by June," Hyppolite said.
For reference, the average person can safely lose about one to two pounds of weight per week, or about eight pounds a month.
Don't overdo it
Finally, and most importantly, recognize that fitness progress takes time, and you're not a failure if you don't have a six-pack for the summer (or ever).
Spending too much time and effort on getting ripped for summer can backfire, causing you to feel worse and burn out.
To avoid getting stuck in a cycle of trying to lose weight and regaining it, it's important to be patient with yourself and accepting of where you are right now, Hyppolite said.
"If people get hard on themselves, they'll do a crash diet," he said. "There's got to be a level of self-care. Summer's gonna get whatever body you give it."
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