Having a flat stomach or more commonly, "washboard abs" is not just accomplished by working out daily, it has to become an all-encompassing lifestyle.
I received an email titled, "LOVE-HANDLES!! Help me lose them."
I have been working on a routine that incorporates exercises that will help you work your love handles (the oblique region of the torso) over time and effort. Personally, I like to work my "obliques" on days I work my legs, so I created the Legs and Love Handles workout seen below.
As with any abdominal fat loss goal, you need to concentrate on three areas to help firm your mid-section.
Here are the three areas of concentration:
1) Healthy Diet (to build energy and burn fat);
2) Cardio-vascular and resistance training (to burn fat and build muscle), and;
3) Targeted Abdominal exercises (to help firm the muscles under the fatty area)
*Note -You cannot target fat loss. Fat will be used as energy for your workouts and will be reduced after time performing cardio, resistance training, and eating healthy.
The number one item if you will notice is food intake. As with any fitness and health goal - nutrition and exercise are always the main ingredients to success. Neither can be missing or you will not have the energy to exercise or you will be part of the yo-yo diet crowd, buying a new diet book every year. Here is how I would break it down to get rid of those "love handles":
1) Healthy Diet
The most important factor in acquiring washboard abs is eating a healthy diet. Here is a list of recommended healthy ways to help you lose a few inches:
- Drink at least three liters of water per day (100 oz)
- Eat five servings of vegetables and fruits per day
- LIMIT fried foods and cheese
- LIMIT processed sugar (for example: sodas, cookies, candy)
- Eliminate fatty red meat - only lean red meats (1-2 times weekly)
Diets like the Atkins and other high protein diets may help at first if you are over 50 lbs. overweight or more, but to get rid of that last 10-15 pounds, it is recommended to follow a more realistic eating plan that does not ELIMINATE any vital nutrients (such as carbs) from your diet. I do not like to endorse certain diet plans because if you eat healthy, drink plenty of water and exercise, the fat will come off too AND you will be healthier and not lose lean muscle than just dieting alone.
For a food plan that was developed by a nutritionist see the following "Lean Down Meal Options" (Word document).
2) Cardio-Vascular Exercise
Losing love handles (stored fat) and increasing the metabolism so you can lose weight more effectively are all tied into a consistent cardiovascular / resistance training program. The stored fat around your mid-section (for men) is typically the last to leave your body even after months or years of an exercise plan. It is difficult to lose those last few pounds. For women, the last few pounds of fat is typically stored in the hips / buttocks / thigh region.
Whether you are a man or woman, you should do 20-45 minutes of activities like walking, running, biking, or swimming daily 4-5 times per week, but also mix in 2-3 times a week of basic calisthenics like pushups, bench dips, squats and lunges. It takes a few weeks before you start to see the physical benefits or your diet and exercise program. You will see almost immediate results in your energy level, overall mental alertness when exercising daily. The sample routine below will help you better organize exercise into your week:
Monday & Thursday
- Upperbody Program
- Warmup 5:00 / stretch
Repeat 5-10 times
- Pushups - 10-20
- Regular Crunches - 20
- Bench dips - 10-20
- Reverse Crunches - 20
- Pullups - max reps or pull-downs - 10
- Hanging Knee up
- Stretch abs/lowerback
Cardio option 20-30:00
Run, bike, walk, swim etc
Tuesday & Friday
- Legs and Love Handles
Repeat 4-5 times
- Walk, bike or jog 5:00
- Stretch legs
- Squats - 20
- Lunges 10 / leg
- Left crunches - 25
- Right crunches - 25
- Hip rollers - 10/side
- Stretch abs / lowerback
Cooldown walk or bike
5:00 / stretch
LONG Cardio Day
- 45-60 minutes of walking, running or combination of the two
- Or biking, swimming, elliptical gliding machines
The workout above is just a basic guide to getting started with a calisthenics or resistance training plan or adding cardio to your workout. For a free 45 Day Beginner Guide to Fitness - check out the link:
The "45 Day Beginner Program" (PDF) will also help you with motivation, basic nutrition, and pictures of the exercises listed above.
Below are some abdominal exercises taken from every eBook sold on the Military.com Fitness eBook Store. Sample exercises to help build muscles of the core (stomach and lower back) are the following:
Bring your knees as high as you can as shown.
Advanced Crunch - (Legs up)
Lie on your back with your feet straight in the air. Keep your legs straight up in the air for the advanced crunches. Cross your hands over your chest and bring your elbows to your knees by flexing your stomach. (Do not do if you have previous lower back injury - place feet on the floor.) Check out "Achieve Washboard Abs" for more information.
In the same position as the regular crunch, lift your knees and butt toward your elbows. Leave your head and upper body flat on the ground. Only move your legs and butt. (Do not do if you have previous lower back injury)
Right Elbow to Left Knee
Cross your left leg over your right leg. Flex your stomach and twist to bring your right elbow to your left knee.
Left Elbow to Right Knee
Same as above just switch sides. Cross your right leg over your leg. Flex your stomach and twist to bring your left elbow to your right knee.
This exercise will help you build your abs, back and hips to help with long ocean swims and balance out the hip flexors exercises. Twist to both sides keeping your shoulders on the floor and stay in the bent knee position when rotating left and right.
*Note - Anytime you work your abs, you should also exercise your lower back to build balance in your torso.
Lower Back Exercise - Swimmers
Lie on your stomach and lift your feet and knees off the floor by flutter kicking repeatedly as if you were swimming freestyle.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at email@example.com.
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