Last week I was a contributor to an article in the Syracuse Post Standard about how to get rid of a beer belly. My conversation with Amber, the writer, was quite pleasant, and we talked about a bunch of topics. Due to space and editing considerations, only a sampling of them could appear in the article. That said, it was a fun topic, and any information contributing to fitness awareness is a step in the right direction. As far as the general public is concerned, the only thing they may have heard about is doing crunches, which by themselves won’t achieve much, especially weight loss. I’d like to briefly elaborate on some of the other things we discussed.
Getting rock-hard abs is one health goal. But the truth is, it’s not simple, although I’m guessing that many readers were hoping for that one magical exercise that would create instant weight loss, yet be extremely easy. Yeah, right. It’s really a holistic process, including diet, exercise, and many other factors, not the least of which is getting enough sleep, something almost none of us do. And if you’re quite obese or have been injured, other professionals should probably be consulted: physicians, physical therapists, dieticians, and the like – even a skilled personal trainer may not be fully qualified to handle those scenarios.
Another misconception is that if you want a smaller stomach, you can just exercise that limited area of your body to lose the gut. This leads to the proliferation of nonsense exercise gimmicks sold on TV, or just the fruitless pursuit of plain sit-ups or crunches.
Little secret: I work on my own abs, especially lately, but I don’t really care if they’re ripped. They are visible, and pretty strong, though, enough to be able to push down with my hands and raise myself into an “L” from a position where I’m sitting on the ground. I have other personal criteria I use, but I think I’ll not elaborate on those; some wild man will try them and wind up with an injury. 🙂 And more modest goals are valid, too. Just being strong enough to do everyday life tasks easily and help prevent a sore back would be enough for most people. And this is a lot easier to achieve than abs etched in granite.
Having made all those caveats, there are some reasonable approaches to getting those firm abs. Let’s say you just tried doing crunches, and they’re making your back hurt, so now what? Start watching TV all day and eating doughnuts. 😉 But seriously, see your doctor first, and talk to him/her about your back pain. And when you’re cleared to do some mild exercise, and consider taking a look at this excellent, easy to read book, the Multifidus Back Pain Solution.
Or if you’re reasonably fit, and you want to try going for the more ripped look, Kurt Brunghardt’s material is a good place to start. For a brief, intense program, you can try Essential Abs, or for more complete coverage, try the Complete Book of Abs. And it’s worth mentioning that these books incorporate the rest of the body, not just the stomach.
Maybe you’re more hardcore, and want very high intensity. You would be hard-pressed to find a more vigorous program than Ross Enamait’s Full Throttle Conditioning, which goes well beyond ab training, and offers a highly advanced approach to combining strength training and cardio, which, if properly done, can reduce fat and build muscle. If I were a beer belly, I would cower in fear at these routines! It includes a book and a DVD, and is for the serious athlete only. Enamait offers great material at excellent prices, the best bargains on fitness material that I’ve found anywhere – check out his other material as well.
Yes, some reading may be required, and some work is involved. [oh, oh, sound of people running away in fear] You have vast potential to improve your health. Whether or not you do so is entirely up to you!
After the article came out, I was contacted by ace cyclist Mark Yafchak, who trains like crazy, but has somewhat smooth abs, and would like to experiment with getting more definition there. His is likely a case of balancing his already extremely advanced cardio conditioning with some strength training, and I’ll be keeping tabs on his progress. Food for thought: muscle tends to burn fat, even when you’re relaxing, so if you build up some muscle, you get some degree of fat burning automagically. Cool, eh?
I’ll leave you with one last fun factoid. All of us like to binge on sweets now and then, right? Come on, admit it! There is a way for normally healthy people to do this with impunity – if you’ve just done an intense exercise session, for a period of about 1 hour after the session, it’s a good time to eat simple carbs, that’s right, sugary stuff. This is because after the muscles are very taxed, I’ll spare you the scientific details, but let’s say that the muscles can refuel with these sugars. But that’s about one hour afterward, not all day, and an intense exercise session doesn’t mean watching your aerobic videos while eating cookies (paraphrasing Dolly Parton’s joke). 😉
My sincere thanks to Amber Smith! As always, consult your doctor to determine if you can safely begin an exercise program.