In today's society, someone only has to turn on the television to see a hunk with a six-pack or a hot girl with "abs of steel."  Understandably, the rest of the population has latched on to Hollywood's fascination for the washboard stomach.  People scour the internet looking for the latest and greatest in ab workouts, machines, even products promising that the user doesn't even need to workout.  In reality, having visible ab muscles does call for some effort.  However, it can be a manageable process.

     Before delving into the different exercises and methods for strengthening the abdominal muscles, its important to understand that unless you are at a healthy weight, the abdominal muscles may not be visible because of the fat on the midsection.  If you are overweight, healthy exercise and nutrition can help to reduce the fat in the midsection.  However, exercise and good nutrition are beneficial regardless of weight.

     The abdominal muscles are a group of six muscles (hence the term six-pack) that are in the core of the body.  Aside from looking attractive when prominent, these muscles also help improve posture, define the waistline, aid in breathing, and support the core of the body.  For all these reasons, strengthening the abdominal muscles will improve overall health in addition to the appearance of the midsection.

     Since the abs are made up of six muscles, one simple exercise will not activate all of them.  That is why it is important to develop a routine of varying exercises that will strengthen the entire core.  Much like other muscle groups, the abdominal muscles should not be exercised every day.  Exercising them temporarily breaks the muscle fibers down, which must repair in order to strengthen the muscles.  Three or four days a week (every other day) will balance the workouts with the recovery process.

     In recent years, the traditional sit up has taken a beating in the exercise and fitness world. It has been labeled as inefficient, and this is because it only works a few of the abdominal muscles.  To get the best results in less time, all-encompassing exercises will work better.  These exercises include:

1. the bicycle (1 min.)

2. side bends (with an 8-10 lb. dumbbell. for 2 min. each side)

3. core isolations (seen in different forms of dance, can be short and hard, or makeup the full workout)

4. the plank (1 min.)

5. the side plank (1 min. each side)

6. plank with mountain climbers (1 min.)

7. cherry pickers (also known as crazy Ivans; 1 min.)

8. tree choppers (with 10-12 lb. dumbbells, 1 min. each side)


     These are just some examples of abdominal exercises that will activate and work many or all the muscles in this group.   It's advised to spend around 10-15 minutes on abdominal exercises on the scheduled days.  However, if one day is too hectic to get the full 15 minutes in, doing half the workout that day and half the next is almost as effective, as long as the rest of the week's schedule is adjusted accordingly.  

     Researching how to do these ab exercises and maybe adding in some more simple ones such as crunches (in between to difficult exercises), is the first step.  Then, on the days of the workouts, simply pick the ones you want to do that day.  The times listed beside the exercises above are the ideal lengths.  Starting out, you might not be able to complete the full duration, but have that time as a goal to work towards.  Eventually, those times may become easier, so they can also be lengthened.  Depending on your personality, you may want to mix up the exercises every workout or keep them consistent.  It is important though,  to mix them up every once in a while to make sure all the ab muscles are being worked.  This also helps to make the routine less of a chore.  

     I guarantee soreness if the workouts are done correctly, and it'll feel good.  The tight feeling in the abs proves the hard work and dedication being put in, and it also shows the your on your way to the abdominal definition you want.