The first and most important element in losing the fat covering your abs is your diet. You have to eat well. It’s not as difficult as you may think, and you don’t have to starve yourself. Even a simple change resulting in 300 fewer calories a day will make a difference when combined with the other two elements discussed below.
For a simple start, here are a few (simplified) tips:
- Stop drinking your calories (cut out soft drinks)
- Eat less white food (cut back on processed carbs)
- Eat more fruits & veggies
- Eat enough lean protein (aim for 1 gram per two pounds of bodyweight)
Just remember, it’s much easier to NOT eat that piece of cheesecake than it is to burn it off later!
The absence of strength training is a major problem with a lot of weight loss programs. In addition to building strength, strength training also firms, tones, and builds your muscles. By building muscle, you naturally raise your metabolism. Muscle uses more calories than fat, so more muscle means more fat burning – even at rest. And don’t worry ladies, you won’t bulk up. For the average female, washboard abs often aren’t the goal – just a slim tummy. That’s OK, the process is the same.
For a strength training workout, stick with mulit-joint full-body exercises when possible. I recommend circuit training. Circuit training allows you to get a great strength workout in a short period of time, while burning calories very effectively. It’s perfect if your goal is to firm up. However, it’s not optimal if you’re really trying to gain strength or muscle mass, which would call for more specified programs.
On to some exercises for washboard abs. You don’t need to do crunches ’til the cows come home. That’s not how to get washboard abs. In fact, don’t do crunches or situps. Start with simple drills like the plank, side plank (and their variations), bird dog, etc. If you train with kettlebells, the Turkish Get-Up and windmill are excellent exercises.
Last but not least is the cardio element. I don’t like that terminology, but we all know what it means. Basically, it involves getting your heart rate up for a period of time, exercising the heart and lungs, and burning fat.
However, forget about hanging out on the treadmill or stationary bike for an hour. There’s a better way – interval training. Interval training consists of mixing brief high-intensity activity with brief periods of rest. Tests have shown that interval training can be up to TWICE as effective as traditional cardio.
Here’s a sample interval training workout:
- Warmup (5 minutes)
- Jog on treadmill (2 minutes)
- Sprint on treadmill (1 minute)
- Repeat Jog/Sprint set 3-5 times
- Cooldown (walk for 5 minutes)
Your sprint time should be very intense, where your jog time should be a very relaxed pace. The idea is to put out an all-out effort (for your fitness level) for a short period, followed by an active rest period until you’ve just about caught your breath, then back to the all-out effort. A great deal of the effectiveness of interval training comes from repeatedly shocking your system in this way. It’s the combination of these three elements that will help you meet your goal of washboard abs. Good abs come from firm muscle and low body fat. The strength training aspect offers the muscle, while the nutrition and cardio work together to control your calories, dropping your body fat. In addition, the strength and cardio elements can often be combined, making for shorter workouts than traditional programs – and they can be done at home.