Most people would love to have a flat tummy or a well-defined six-pack. However, for many it’s not just as simple as cutting down on what you eat and doing some sit ups. That’s why we have put together a five-part series of top tips to help you flatten your abs…forever

Over the last few weeks, Bodyguards Health & Fitness, via our Blog have provided you with two top tips each week that will help you to achieve a more aesthetically pleasing abdomen and develop a functionally strong core. At Bodyguards, we often meet clients who tell us that they “need to lose two stones to be fit and healthy again”, and then we tell them that in reality, they “need to be fit and healthy again to lose two stones… forever”.

Bodyguards Personal Trainers encourage a ‘balanced’, ‘whole’ approach and endeavor to educate our clients not only how to train intelligently and balance their exercise routine but also how to balance their diet and their lifestyle so that they can develop robust health and maintain it - keeping you feeling good on the inside and looking great on the outside.

Previous articles explained how ‘Real’ Foods, a Balanced Exercise Routine, a Balanced Diet, Core Conditioning, Healthy Digestion, Posture, Stress Management, Rest, Recovery and Sleep all contribute to improved health, body shape, weight loss, muscular definition, fitness levels and well-being allowing you to Flatten your Abs… Forever. When you begin to understand that the human body is a complex system of systems that are all connected and inter-related you begin to understand the underlining importance of taking a ‘balanced’ or ‘holistic’ approach.

Whole = The Sum of All Its Parts

In this fifth and final part we discuss the effects of Correct Breathing and the importance of living a Balanced Lifestyle:

9. Breathing

I’m going to state the obvious – breathing is essential ! But you’re probably wondering why breathing is so important for your abdominals ? It’s more a case of breathing properly i.e. breathing primarily from your belly and not solely through your chest, neck and shoulders (inverted breathing pattern). Belly breathing activates a vital inner core unit muscle known as the diaphragm which allows a deeper breath, supports/protects your spine and improves posture. As part of the inner core unit, working alongside the Transverse Abdominal (corset muscle) and the Pelvic Floor muscles (in fact innervated by the same nerve), the diaphragm plays an integral role in being able to develop a strong base (core) from which the majority of the other muscles and limbs hinge, greatly improving control and performance.

A functional inner core also helps to create a flatter abdominal wall on which the outer, more superficial and more visible abdominals sit. So, by learning to breathe correctly you can help to flatten your inner abs allowing the six pack muscles to be aesthetically more prominent and better-defined.

10. Find a Balance

As mentioned earlier, the trick to maintaining health, fitness and consequently a flat tummy is Finding Balance. Taking a balanced approach to health allows for sustainable results. Specifically, I refer to a balance of the two opposing branches of the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) which sub-consciously controls important bodily functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, the release of hormones and many other important bodily functions. The two branches of the ANS are known as the Sympathetic (fight or flight/survive) branch and the Parasympathetic (rest & digest/thrive) branch and each one controls the function of particular organs, glands and systems within the body.

Fight or Flight

When you’re stressed or your body is under excessive load, your autonomic nervous system shifts toward activation of the sympathetic (SNS) branch. When active, the sympathetic nervous system prepares your body for survival, for a fight or for a flight (runaway) response. Your heart rate and blood pressure increases, you take quicker, more shallow breaths and you release catabolic hormones like cortisol (which breaks down muscle and coverts it into blood-sugar - gluconeogenesis) and adrenaline so you have immediate energy to be able to deal with the threat at hand. There’s nothing wrong with activating your SNS, in fact without it we’d have struggled to survive to be top of the food chain today. However, problems occur when we remain sympathetically active for prolonged periods of time, eating away at our muscles, causing our metabolism to slow right down meaning we burn less fat, feel tired but wired, lose any sex drive and become more irritable, nervous and fatigued. Conversely but equally importantly, whilst your sympathetic nervous system is active your parasympathetic nervous system is consequently suppressed meaning poor quality sleep, poor digestion and slower recovery and regeneration.

Growth & Repair

Your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) allows your body to rest and digest, repair, regenerate and grow. It triggers an opposite effect on the body to the SNS: It slows your heart rate, lowers blood pressure, slows and lengthens your breaths, increases digestion and releases growth and repair hormones (such as testosterone) which help to build lean muscle tissue, increase metabolism, and therefore burn more fat

The 80:20 Rule

Balancing our autonomic nervous system helps your body to maintain a state of homeostasis and thus health. Fat loss should occur naturally when you maintain a ‘healthy balance’. Don’t just survive, thrive !

Try and use the 80:20 rule. If you look after your body 80% of the time, avoid excessive stress or physiological load, eat real foods, keep hydrated, slow down, relax and get suitable amounts of rest and sleep then your body is more than capable of looking after you for the remaining 20%...

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