Who hasn’t looked in the mirror and wished that they looked different? Movies and magazines have always portrayed the bronzed, tight ‘six-pack abs’ as the look we should all aspire to. We’ve since learnt that the sun causes skin damage and now there is evidence that those six-pack abs aren’t really as healthy as they look either.
Being realistic, it’s actually less than ten per cent of the population that are even capable of achieving that fat-free look. It’s not just about exercise and discipline. To obtain those results, you need to be young, have thin skin and have the right genetics.
Abdominal skin differs from the rest of our skin in that it contains subcutaneous tissue that loves to hoard fat. You can starve it or shrink it but it will always be there, waiting to fill up if you even look at that cheesecake!
Studies have also shown that overdoing abdominal exercises can lead to flattening of the lumbar curve and weakening of the spinal structure. Having a too-tight tummy can also cost you flexibility and freedom of movement.
Many cultures tell us that tight bellies show strength and discipline; that any sign of a curve of the tummy shows weakness and lack of ability. Yet it may well be that exactly the opposite is true.
Abdominal muscles assist breathing, support the spine, keep the torso erect and hold in the digestive organs. If we need to hold in our breath to show those muscles off, we put undue stress and pressure on the whole body. In fact, having any muscle group constantly taut can cause pain and discomfort.
We all have a different centre of gravity. This is an imaginary point around which the body’s weight is evenly distributed. Known as the core of the body, it’s responsible for the body’s strength, power, agility, co-ordination and balance. To improve the look of your whole body, your aim should be to increase core strength.
The main concepts of core strengthening programs involve using many muscles in a co-ordinated movement. For optimal results, it’s important to do core strengthening work-outs for 30 minutes at least three times a week.
Rowing is an excellent option, as it uses many muscle groups. You can also enjoy the fresh air and the company of others with the same fitness goals.
Exercise balls are fun to use and are designed to help strengthen muscles and support the spine from the upper back to the lower back, in front and in back.
The different positions and exercises of Pilates inherently challenge your balance, flexibility and torso strength.
While it may take a little while to get used to, a wobble board helps improve balance, co-ordination and posture while minimising your risk of injury.
Working mind and body, yoga provides an excellent strength and toning work-out. With deep breathing and deep relaxation, it can benefit all areas of your life.
To assist with your cardio work-out and co-ordination, some form of aerobic exercise should definitely be added to your work-out routine.
Many of the martial arts provide exercise and discipline, and help increase the fluidity of your movements. You also have the added benefit of learning how to protect yourself.
Try finding a variety of exercises that you enjoy to develop core body strength and keep movements fluid. These exercises will improve your whole body and may be far more beneficial than a hundred crunches.
With so many fitness options to choose from, you have no excuse not to start using all those muscle groups!
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CJ – Fitness