Ab-ra cadabra: A 6-pack

by Beacon Staff • October 12, 2005

For students who dream of having the stomach of a Greek god, there is a way-all it takes is one eight-minute workout a day, three or four times a week. While most exercises require entering the gym or finding an open field to run in, ab workouts can be done in a dorm room or just about anywhere else.

"[The stomach] is an area where people carry the most fat weight," said Emerson College Fitness Center (ECFC) manager Katelyn Haggerty. "In keeping weight off, you're healthier and not prone to different diseases."

Working out the abdominal muscles, or abs, can also help other areas, according to Haggerty.

"Strong abs lead to a strong back," Haggerty said.

In order to flatten your stomach, www.Bodybuilding.com says basic crunches are a good place to begin taking care of the upper abs.

Lie down flat with your knees bent in an "A" shape. Place your hands either behind your head or on the ground next to you. Then raise your shoulders just enough so they are off the ground and repeat 50 times.

It is important not to pull your head up with your hands because this position will work your arms instead of your stomach, Haggerty said.

"If you're pulling with your arms, you're not targeting the stomach," Haggerty said. "It takes away from the workout."

Haggerty went on to say that using arms to lift your head could lead to neck problems.

The next exercise will focus on the oblique muscles, or sides of your stomach. While still in the crunch form, raise your left ankle and place it on your right knee. Then raise and twist your right elbow to connect with your right knee. Do this exercise 20 times. Then repeat on the opposite side with your left elbow touching your right knee.

"Anything with a twisting motion works your oblique [muscles]," Haggerty said.

Now that the sides and upper abs have been targeted, the next zone is the lower abs.

Position your body so your calf muscles are parallel to the ground but your thighs are perpendicular to it. With the same motion as a crunch, lift your shoulders off the ground and repeat this another 30 times.

Then lay flat and elevate your legs about eight inches above the ground. Raise your legs to a 45 degree angle and lower them to eight inches above the ground. Repeat this 25 times.

"Incorporating your legs in any [ab exercise] works the lower abs," Haggerty said.

To finish your ab workout, repeat the crunches at the beginning of the exercise 30 to 50 times depending on how much your stomach hurts.

These exercises concentrate on every zone in the midsection, which is the best and most effective way to conduct an ab workout.

"You really want to focus on all areas, not just one particular," said Shannon Peterson, a trainer at the ECFC.

Haggerty agrees that all regions of the stomach muscles must be targeted.

"The abdomen is one big muscle," Haggerty said. "You can go into one exercise that is targeting areas [but] you want to hit all areas so it's a complete [workout]."

Haggerty stressed that ab exercises are not enough if a person wants to have a sculpted six-pack.

"You can build up your ab muscles, but if you have a layer of fat over your muscles, you will not see your stomach," Haggerty said.

Enough fat will hide the six-pack, so if an Usher-like stomach is the object of your desire, the fat surrounding it must be minimal enough for the abs to be visible.

"Everyone does have a six-pack," Peterson said. "It's just underneath."

Dave Bartlett contributed to this article.

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