If you're looking to develop a six pack or just tighten your mid-section, there are a zillion resources available online. What they don't tell you, however, is that all the crunches in the world will not necessarily give you a smaller waist and in some cases, exactly the opposite occurs. If you're looking to sculpt a slimmer core without the bulk for an hourglass-shaped physique, read on for my tried and true formula.
The rumors are true- abs are primarily made in the kitchen. Stick with a nutrition plan based around whole foods like veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and lean proteins. Avoid processed food products, sugar and high amounts of dairy, and consume a moderate amount of healthy fats from cold-water fish, nut butters, and coconut or flax seed oil. Low calorie DOES NOT mean weight loss or a tight core! Make sure that you are consuming enough nutrients per day to fuel you. One tool to help you figure out what you should be consuming is the Harris-Benedict equation, which uses your basal metabolic rate and activity level to estimate appropriate intake.
Create the illusion of a smaller waist by building up your shoulders and back and developing stronger glutes. This strategy will give you a beautiful hourglass figure, creating the illusion of a tiny waist. Lat pulldowns, seated rows and dumbbell pullovers will widen your back for a V-shape look while deltoid raises and presses can give you a subtle “cap” on your shoulders, broadening the appearance. Lots of squat and lunge variations firm and lift the butt, and rounder, tighter glutes provide a more noticeable curve at the back and waist.
Avoid oblique exercises and powerlifting IF you want a smaller waist. Compare a crossfitter and a bodybuilder. One of the major differences in their physiques is apparent at the mid-section- crossfitters generally have wider, square-shaped waists while bodybuilders are careful to perform exercises that maintain a more narrow appearance. Overhead powerlifts, barbell oblique training and other weighted oblique exercises like plate twists, side bends, med ball throws and jackknifes will “bulk up” the mid-section. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having a super cut, square mid-section like many Crossfitters have- it all depends on your preference. Both are awesome in my opinion, because it means that you're working hard to develop your strength and prevent injury!
Behold, the stomach vacuum. The stomach vacuum is a little known exercise that bodybuilders, bikini models, and fitness geeks use to really pull in the waist and control the core. It works your transverse abdominus, which is the muscle behind your rectus abdominus (your six pack). This is an exercise that you can do anytime, anywhere- while waiting in line at the bank, driving, or watching TV. Click here for a Bodybuilding.com tutorial on how to do the stomach vacuum exercise.
And now, for my favorite exercise to sculpt a toned, trim core: rope pulley crunches. The rope pulley crunch is a weighted core exercise that targets the rectus abdominus and is quite possibly the most effective ab exercise in the world. To learn how to do this exercise, watch my one minute instructional video below:
1. Kneel below a pulley containing a rope attachment and hold the attachment, pulling the rope until it is in front of your face.
2. Flex at the waist and contract your abdomen as your elbows travel to the mid-lower thigh.
3. Exhale forcefully as you come down to the lowest position and hold the contraction for a second, this is important!
4. Return to the starting position and repeat for 20-40 reps
Stay tuned for Part Two of this series on building a tighter trimmer core, which will address strategies to reduce the appearance of excess skin around the midsection after pregnancy or significant weight loss.
If you found this blog post useful, please share it with your friends. Do you have a favorite core exercise, or a question on this post? Leave your thoughts in the comments section- I always love to hear from you!
Love and Lifting,