Celebrity Personal Trainer, Nutrition & Lifestyle Coach and Founder of Creating Curves, ALEXA TOWERSEY, shares her fitness secrets on how to get those elusive rock-hard abs…
Contrary to popular belief, your “abs” and your “core” are not one in the same. The abdominal muscles that you’re probably more familiar with are the superficial ones that are primarily worked by flexing the spine – think sit-ups and crunches. However, the CORE includes all of those abdominal muscles in addition to all of the muscles of the pelvic girdle, lower back and glutes. To train the core in its entirety, you need to include a variety of exercises that address all the key components – flexing the spine, extending the spine (back extension and reverse hyperextension variations), extending the hips (glute bridges and hip thrust variations), twisting/rotating the torso and holding the spine still. This way, you’ll help prevent back pain, boost your agility, increase your flexibility and look good naked.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve chosen to stick to the abdominal region only, so you can FEEL THE BURN. Here are my top tips to help you speed towards that six-pack, and I don’t mean the one you bought at the bottle shop.
The abs are composed predominantly of fast twitch muscle fibres. This means they have the potential to grow quickly with volume and consistency (this doesn’t mean a couple of sets of 10 reps at the end of each workout), and they respond best to an 8-12 rep range with a time under tension (TUT) of 30-40 secs per set. The best way to blitz them is to do giant sets. Take minimal rest between the individual exercises and a longer 45-60 secs rest at the end before repeating for three sets in total – aim to perform three times a week for 6 weeks. Think about drawing the bellybutton to the spine throughout to help brace the midsection and support the lower back.
15 x REVERSE CRUNCH
Lie on your back and bring your knees in towards your chest until they’re bent to 90 degrees. Contract your abs to curl your hips off the floor, reaching your legs up towards the ceiling, then lower your legs back down to their original position without letting your feet touch the floor.
20 x BICYCLE CRUNCH
Lie on your back with your hands behind your head, and your legs raised and bent at 90 degrees. Curl your head and chest up so you’re resting on your shoulder blades. Bring your armpit towards your knee on one side while lengthening the other leg away from you, pause in the contracted position, then alternate sides. Minimise any rocking of the pelvis by keeping this slow and controlled.
10 x SWISSBALL PIKES
Assume push-up position with your hands on the ground and shins on the ball. Keeping your legs straight, draw your hips up to the ceiling – lower the legs back to plank. Regress the exercise to a knee tuck by bending the knees.
15 x JANDA SIT-UPS
Lie on your back with your knees bent and hands placed behind your head. Dig your heels into the floor, contracting your hamstrings, whilst performing an ordinary crunch – if the hamstrings are “on”, it helps turn the hip flexors off, so you get more work through your abs. You can pop a weight plate between your butt and your heels to pull against, to help with engaging the hamstrings.
20 x WINDOW WIPERS
Lie on your back with arms out to the sides and legs up at 90 degrees. Rotate the legs to one side to graze the ground, whilst reaching out through the opposite shoulder. Use your abs to draw the legs back to centre then rotate to the other side. For an extra stretch through the upper spine, place heavy kettlebells on your hands to weight the arms down in the crucifix position. Regress the exercise by bending the legs.
10 x PLANK WALKOUTS
Assume a straight arm plank position. Your body should be a straight line from your head to your heels. Slowly walk your hands forward as far as you can without losing the brace in your spine, pause for one count, then walk hands back underneath the shoulders.
TOP TIP: It’s not just the ladies that have pelvic-floor muscles – you guys also have them. They’re important not just for bladder control as you get older but also for erectile function – think harder for longer. If you’re into a bit of dirty talk, while you’re performing your set, think about pulling your balls away from your anus because that’s the most common cue.
Once you’ve sculpted your six-pack, you need to shed the fat on top of it, because abs generally aren’t visible unless you’re under 10% body fat (15% for a female). You can do this by:
- KISS (KEEP IT SIMPLE STUPID) – at its most basic level, fat loss comes down to energy balance. Expend more energy than you consume.
- BE AS STRONG AS YOU LOOK – once you’re physically prepared to stabilise the trunk through heavy multi-joint exercises, tighter abs will come from performing squats, deadlifts, pullups and Olympic lifting variations.
- SPRINT FINISH – incorporate High Intensity Interval Training Sessions into your program three times a week. Studies have shown that one of the most effective protocol for torching belly fat involves eight seconds ALL-OUT sprints followed by a 12-second rest, repeated for a total of 60 intervals. That’s ONLY 20 mins of work!
- STRESS LESS – research shows that there is a direct correlation between belly fat and prolonged exposure to stress. Stress isn’t just having a spat with your missus or cursing a cab driver for cutting in front of you, it includes food intolerances, dehydration, over training (or under recovering) and poor sleep. And just so we’re clear lads, a training session doesn’t count as a date #justsaying.
For the full article grab the November 2018 issue of MAXIM Australia from newsagents and convenience locations. Subscribe here.