How nice if we could magically melt fat off our stomachs … unfortunately, there’s no magic pill or silver bullet (as yet!).
It’s only through much willpower, patience and time that your pride and glory evolves from a keg to a six-pack. And so it is absolutely critical that your dedication is well directed so that it proves a worthy investment.
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) commissioned a study on ab exercises in 2001 on 30 men and women aged between 20 and 45. Participants were put through a battery of tests including the crunch, partial body weight exercises and exercises using home and gym equipment.
The most effective ab exercises turned out to be the humble bicycle manoeuvre and captain’s chair, while crunches on the exercise ball ranked highest for home exercise equipment. While the bicycle manoeuvre and exercise ball can be done at home, the captain’s chair is easily accessible at your local gym.
Don’t sweat the current economic situation. Hit the floor at home where you can do these exercises that target the rectus abdominis (abdominal muscles) and obliques (muscles that run down the sides of the abdomen).
The bicycle manoeuvre, which comes highly recommended, is done lying flat on the floor. Simply press your lower back on the ground and place your hands next to your head. Raise your knees to around 45 degrees and slowly go through a pedalling motion. As you cycle, touch your right knee with your left elbow, then your left knee with your right elbow. Begin at 30 seconds of continuous cycling and build up to around two minutes.
Rolling right along, the exercise ball is highly versatile and allows for great crunches. Simply lie back on the ball until your thighs and torso are parallel to the ground. Cross your arms over your chest and tuck your chin slightly toward your chest. Contract your abs raising your torso to no more than 45 degrees, exhaling as your contract and inhaling as you return to the starting position. Repeat this action for 12-15 reps.
For gym rats that prefer working up a sweat on machines, your local Singapore Sports Council Gym offers far better equipment than ab rollers and ab rockers and which allow you to work the rectus abdominis, iliopsoas (hip flexors) and obliques.
Working with gym equipment offers the flexibility to vary resistance levels, challenging your muscles in ways the floor cannot. The captain’s chair is often overlooked but it is actually an advanced abdominal exercise machine that targets all the major ab muscle groups.
When using it, stabilize your upper body as your grip the hand holds and press your lower back against the back pad. Hold your body up and slowly lift your knees in toward your chest. Aim for a controlled motion as you bring your knees up and release them back to the original position. Repeat this action for 12-15 reps.
The ab cruncher, another neat contraption, comes with adjustable weights and elbow, back and ankle pads with hand grips for upper and lower body stabilisation.
When seated, inhale deeply and curl your upper body forward. Pull with your abdominal muscles without using your legs or arms. Hold your position for a second once you reach the maximum extension. Allow the weight to pull you back as far as you can go without resting the weights. Perform a total of 15 reps, resting 10-15 seconds between sets.
Don’t overtrain by doing too much and not resting enough. Be aware of your lower back at all times. If you experience shooting pains, sharp pains, spasms, and pain that moves into your legs, arms, feet or hands, stop and see a doctor, or change to another exercise. Train hard but train smart.
And remember, regular exercise will tighten stomach muscles but unless you reduce your intake of fat and calories under the supervision of a doctor, the results will be hidden under a layer of fat.