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Abs for Women

With Summer just around the corner, I am faced with more questions on what you can do to get that 6 Pack look. What’s the best exercise for your abs? How many crunches do you need to be doing or calories you need to be consuming? Is it even possible or are the abs you see online and on the cover of magazines just photoshop doing it’s thing?

The number one thing you need to focus on is your Nutrition. Find out what works best for you. As I have said in many of my blogs, I am a fan of low carb diets for shredding fat. That doesn’t mean it works for you. Hell, you could be the type to lose weight on an ice cream diet! All the crunches and the best abs exercises in the world alone will not help you get that 6 pack look. You’ll have abs alright. But you’ll also have that layer of fat over your abs, hiding all your good work in the gym.

The Ice Cream diet is... ah who am I kidding? I just cruelly put this picture here for temptation ;)

The Ice Cream diet is... ah who am I kidding? I just cruelly put this picture here for temptation ;)

No matter what nutrition plan you take, avoid the processed foods and sugars is my recommendation. 

That layer of fat can be reduced with nutrition but also with exercise. And you’re not going to be able to burn enough calories and lose weight in your stomach area through crunches alone. We can’t pick and choose where our body stores fat. 

Therefore we need a combination of cardio, strength and toning exercises as well as core to help get closer to achieving that look. 

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a much more effective way in burning fat than steady state cardio e.g. long distance running. So avoid the long runs and go straight into exercises that require maximal effort like sprints and burpees (Oh, you weren’t expecting the B word in a blog about abs… really?) 

Abs exercises like crunches and leg lifts can be beneficial so I wouldn’t completely knock them. They are good for near the end of a workout when you have used up a lot of your energy on HIIT and strength training. The advantage to strength training is that you can add resistance over time and make the exercises harder. Therefore your body is always adapting. No matter how good an exercise is, if you do the exact same sets and reps, day after day week after week etc, you will start to lose the initial benefits as your body won’t find it difficult any more and therefore will not need to adapt. 

So what exercises should you be doing when strength/resistance training? Exercises that require you to work your core to keep your body stable. A great example of this and a key exercise for abs is the squat. Yes, the squat. Holding a weight up or resting on your shoulders, the exercise forces you to active your core muscles, otherwise doing the movement correctly would be impossible. 

Use exercises that require you to work on your balance as well. Single leg deadlifts are another fantastic one that require you to activate your core so you don’t fall over doing the exercise. It also gives you the ability to add weight when the exercise becomes too easy.

To add resistance, put a weight in the same hand as the leg that is moving back

To add resistance, put a weight in the same hand as the leg that is moving back

Unfortunately for women, it is much harder for them to get that lean abs look as studies have shown that for an equivalent body mass index, women have a greater amount of body fat than men through out there adult life. Actually the study emphasised “significantly greater amounts of total body fat” but I won’t mention that. The main reason for this that women stock the extra energy in the event of pregnancy. Even if women work harder than men (and from every time of mixed class I’ve thought, they usually kill the guys in work ethic in the core section of the class), their body needs more body fat to help function better. It’s still possible, but just more difficult.

Another set back is that we all have different body types so we are all going to look different if we did get our body fat percentage down and work hard in the gym, consistently, over a long period of time. So we may never get that desired look we were hoping to get. This is down to the structure of each individuals abdominals. 

So what can you do:

1. Nutrition - Finding the right foods that suit you and you fat loss goals while being sustainable long term

2. HIIT - High Intensity Interval Training. Exercises that use large muscle groups and have you working up a sweat fast!

3. Strength and Core Training - Add weights to your program and do exercises that require core control and balance.

4. Keep abs moves to the end - Crunches, Planks, Leg Lifts etc can be effective. But these exercises alone will not be.

Your goals should be to get your nutrition on track and work on pushing yourself in each session you do. Give your body rest as well. Training 3-4 times a week is enough with a proper nutrition diet. Work on improving your core strength, your balance and slowly increasing the weights in your resistance training and times in your HIIT training.

Below is a sample based workout. Please do not do the workout if you have not done any training in a while or are unsure on how to safely do an exercise. The amount of weight to be used depends entirely on the individual and their strength. They should start to struggle to get the last few reps in. 

Sample Abs Based Workout:
(After adequate Warm Up)

Squats with weights - 3 x 15 reps
Lunges with weights - 3 x 10EL (Each Leg)
Single Leg Deadlifts with weight - 3 x 10EL
Kettlebell Swings 3 x 30 seconds

10 minute AMRAP (As Many Rounds As Possible) Workout 

10 reps of Each Move:
Push Up
Bicycle Kicks
Plank Knee Bends
Leg Raises

The workout above should take over 40 minutes, including the warm up. If you do try this workout. let me know you get on!