“Why can’t I see my lower abs?”
Maybe have asked yourself this question. You might have the latest ab gadget, whether it’s an “Ab Lounge,” “Easy Ab 2000,” or “Get Abs While You Sleep!” Or maybe you skipped the gimmick route and instead are doing hundreds of crunches and situps every day.
Regardless, despite your dogged and determined efforts, your lower abs are still covered by a layer of flab.
What is missing?
Is there some secret abdominal exercise contraption or exotic abdominal routine that will give you ripped lower abs and make your midsection look like Brad Pitt’s in Fight Club?
You Already Have Six-Pack Abs
Well, let’s just start with this simple fact: you already have ripped lower abs. They just happen to be covered up by a little bit of fat.
Lower Ab Fat – First to Come, Last to Go
First, a little SCIENCE. (Don’t worry, it will be over before you know it!)
Fat cells are more than just little balloons that fill up with more grease every time we eat a burger. They are actually glands that are in constant communication with the entire body.
To burn fat, two things have to happen. First, the body releases the hormone adrenaline (epinephrine), which travels to the fat cells. This triggers the cells to release fat, which is eventually burned by muscle activity (aka exercise).
Sounds pretty simple, right? Well, there is a small catch…
Evil Alpha 2 Receptors
Released adrenaline contacts the fat cells through one of two kinds of receptors: Beta 1 (B1) or Alpha 2 (A2). When adrenaline contacts a B1 receptor, the fat burning process begins, just as we saw above.
BUT, when adrenaline contacts an A2 receptor, no fat loss occurs. The little bugger blocks the fat burning process for that particular fat cell!
Ok, Why is This Important?
This is why: the fat cells in a man’s lower abdomen typically have a higher concentration of A2 receptors than other places in his body. As a result, that lower ab fat is the first to arrive and last to leave. Interestingly, the fat cells in a woman’s hips and thighs also have a higher concentration of A2 receptors.
Spot Reduction Doesn’t Work
So, in order to really get those lean, cut lower abs you are looking for, you need to get rid of that last bit of lower belly fat. All the crunches or situps in the world won’t make that flab go away.
And in order to do that, you need to burn more calories than you take in. We will approach this from two angles.
Step 1 – Eat Less
There are SO many approaches to fat loss dieting out there, and many of them work. My approach has been pretty simple:
- If you eat until you are full, you will gain weight.
- If you stop eating while you are still hungry, you will lose weight.
- If you finish your meal when you are just barely satisfied, you will maintain your weight.
Don’t get to crazy here and starve yourself, just pay attention and eat a bit less than you normally do.
Also, I try to drink a lot of water. Some experts say that salt trapped under the skin leads to water retention. Drinking plenty of water supposedly helps to flush out any water weight you might be holding under your skin. Plus it’s just a good healthy habit in general.
Meal timing is also worth considering. I try to not eat for 3-4 hours before a workout. Many people have found this to help with fat loss.
Step 2 – Lower Ab Workout – HIIT/Cardio Mix + Resistance Training
Resistance training such as pushups, pullups, squats, and other bodyweight variations (or free weights and machines if you have access to those kinds of equipment) will help to maintain your muscle mass while you are eating a little less.
High intensity interval training (HIIT) alternates periods of intense activity with brief active rests. One example would simply be to run fast for one minute, then walk for a minute, and repeat for a total of 10-15 minutes.
HIIT helps to release fat into the bloodstream, as we discussed above. Doing 20 or more minutes of moderate intensity cardio exercise immediately after your HIIT session will help to burn the fat that has been released.
Here is a sample schedule that I have found helpful: (Always make sure to warm up properly before each session, and consult your physician before beginning any new exercise routine)
- 2-3 days per week – HIIT (sprinting for 1 minute, slower pace for 1 minute, for a total of 10-12 minutes) followed by 20 minutes of moderate intensity cardio
- 2 days per week – Cardio (moderate intensity) for 20-30 minutes
- 3 days per week – Resistance training -15 minutes of pullups, pushups, and squats, taking 60 seconds rest between sets
Try to vary your workout methods for HIIT and Cardio. Don’t just run or just ride a stationary bike. Mix it up to prevent overuse injuries. Likewise, for resistance training, work on variations of pulling, pushing, and lower body motions as well.
Now, you might be asking yourself, “But what about ab exercises?” Don’t worry, here is the next step…
Step 3 – Lower Ab Workout – Ab Exercises – Forget Crunches!
With all of this talk of fat loss, don’t think that actual ab exercises aren’t important. The moves described below will develop your ab muscles as your body fat slowly drops to reveal your ‘new’ six pack and ripped lower abs. Plus, targeting your core muscles in the following ways will help to prevent lower back injuries.
Two or three times per week, mix in these exercises:
Support your weight on your elbows and toes, keeping your body straight. Work up to holding this position for 2 minutes.
Support your weight on one elbow, with your body in a straight line. You can stack your feet or place one foot in front of the other.
Keep your body straight, without bending at the waist. It can help to do this exercise with your back against a wall for the first few times, to get a sense of proper alignment.
Try to build up the strength and endurance to hold this position for 2 minutes.
This exercise develops the innermost abdominal muscles, the transverse abdominis, which are critical to providing support for your spine. Plus, doing the abdominal vacuum will shrink your waistline!
There are some good videos on youtube detailing this move, but the basic idea is this: exhale fully, then draw your stomach to your spine. Hold for a few seconds, then inhale, catch your breath, and repeat a couple more times.
When you are just starting out, it can be helpful to try this exercise while laying on the floor, to really feel the muscle engage and contract against the spine.
So, as counter-intuitive as it might seem, here are the three steps to an effective lower ab workout:
- Eat a little less
- Workout a few times per week – resistance training, HIIT, and cardio
- Do the three ab exercises above to develop your abs and prevent injuries
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