We all know someone who trains regularly at the gym and eats clean but still struggles to achieve a flat tummy or the elusive ‘Six-Pack’. In fact, most people struggle to burn the unwanted fat around their middle and create clearly defined abdominals following the conventional advice on offer in most gyms and therefore we have put together a five-part series of top tips to help you flatten your abs…forever
Each week, Bodyguards Health & Fitness provide you with two more top tips that will help you to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing abdomen and develop a functionally strong core. The underling ethos here is ‘balance’ and sustainability. We encourage a ‘whole’ approach and endeavor to educate our clients how to balance their diet, their exercise routine and their lifestyle so that they can develop robust health and maintain it - keeping you looking good on the outside and feeling great on the inside.
Last week we emphasised the importance of posture and digestion to health, fat loss and a better-looking body. In this third part we expand on two more significantly linked subjects; Core Conditioning and Stress Management.
LESS IS MORE
5. CORE CONDITIONING
Obviously, if you want to see your abs again, then you’re going to need to do some ab work at the gym. However, contrary to popular belief, sit-ups alone are unfortunately not the simple solution we all hope for and often result in back pain and poor posture that tends to hide your abs rather than define them. Most clients benefit from a more scientific, educated approach, understanding the ‘core’ and its functions in order to be able to intelligently design a balanced exercise programme that flattens the tummy and allows for better definition of the core muscles without having to break your back doing hundreds of sit-ups every day. Your core is a group of muscles, not just your rectus abdominal (sit up) muscles. In brief, the core muscles are divided into separate layers that work together to create a foundation to all 3 dimensional movement, they protect and support the vertebral column, spinal cord and the internal organs and even play an integral role in breathing, digestion and circulation. A key mistake people make is simply targeting the superficial six-pack muscles by doing hundreds of sit-ups without paying sufficient attention to the deeper inner core unit muscles first. By training the inner core unit muscles like the diaphragm, transverse abdominal (TVA), internal obliques and pelvic floor you can create a solid base on which the six pack muscles sit, thus improving definition and flattening the tummy. Additionally you will improve the stability of the spine, increase speed and range of movement and athletic performance and even improve your digestion, eliminate back pain and improve spinal alignment, posture and general core function. We encourage our clients to exercise intelligently, understand the physiology of the core and train the separate layers of muscles appropriately starting with the deepest layer first, the TVA, then work outwards. Work with a knowledgeable, reputable Personal Trainer who can explain and demonstrate the importance of understanding how each individual layer of the core musculature functions and how to activate the deeper core muscles before training the outer layers. Train from the inside out. Sometimes less is more – You don’t need to do hundreds of sit ups every day to get a nice looking core…
6. STRESS MANAGEMENT
Nowadays, modern living brings with it all sorts of stress. Each and every form of stress, whether it be physical, mental or emotional, summates and places a load on your physiology and when the level of load becomes excessive the body prioritises short term ‘survival’ rather than long term growth. It should be pointed out, that some stress, in small quantities, is actually good for us. For example, exercise is a stress. Every time we train we break down muscle fibres stimulating the body to rebuild stronger than before (providing we allow suitable recovery and ingest the appropriate building blocks for muscle synthesis i.e. protein). Sunlight is also a stress that, in the right amount, helps us to produce vitamin D which aids with calcium absorption, allowing us to develop stronger bones. Unfortunately, excessive stress or load causes inflammation and triggers a sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) response meaning your body is in survival mode which can eventually result in the metabolism slowing down causing the body to hold on to fat stores. It also leads to an increase in the levels of cortisol (the hormone we release in response to stress) in the bloodstream creating a catabolic state where your body actually breaks down your hard-earned muscle. This obviously makes developing a strong, well-defined core difficult. Research also shows that those of us with excessive levels of cortisol in our bloodstreams are more likely to store our body fat around our middles making it even harder to see the abs and flatten our tummies.
Stress comes in many forms;
- Nutritional (processed foods, imbalanced diet, dehydration, starvation/over-eating)
- Chemical (drugs, pollution, food additives, fertilisers, pesticides)
- Physical (posture, structural imbalances, injury, under/over training)
- Mental/emotional (workload, finances, relationships, anxiety, depression)
- Electromagnetic (sunlight, wi-fi, tv/phones/computers)
- Thermal (body temperature, climate, weather)
The problems occur when our bodies experience excessive amounts of stress for prolonged periods of time. When this happens we don’t digest our food very well, we lose muscle, our metabolism slows down, we gain fat, we lose the ability to repair and regenerate and ultimately we become ill and get diseases. So the obvious solution is to manage our stress levels in order to balance our hormone levels, allowing us to predominantly remain in an anabolic state, promoting growth and repair as opposed to breakdown and survival.
Stress management is a hot topic nowadays within the health and fitness industry but sometimes it’s not as easy as it sounds. Often the causes of excessive stress are hard if not impossible to eliminate such as the stress caused by work, finances, relationships, family, even the traffic, pollution or the weather. However, we can reduce the stress caused by a poor diet, dehydration, a poorly designed exercise programme and lifestyle factors such sleep, anxiety and poor recovery. By making small adjustments in these areas we have the ability to bring the overall load placed upon our bodies back to manageable levels, bringing our bodies back into balance (homeostasis) and avoiding the ill-effects of excessive levels of cortisol and an imbalanced autonomic nervous system.
Again, Less is more !
Try working with a well-trained Lifestyle Coach who could help you identify areas of your health that could be improved in order to bring everything back into equilibrium again and watch those abs return !
Next week, we’ll be discussing the importance of balancing your diet and your lifestyle in order to ‘flatten your abs…forever’