We are an “ab obsessed” society, especially here in sunny San Diego. It isn’t helping that the trend in athletic wear is leaning more and more toward open backs and crop tops with every season that launches. Regardless of whether or not our abs are going to be exposed for our world to see, we still want them tight, toned, flat and strong. Today I taught a curl clinic at my studio, (it’s an hour-long workshop for my clients to learn how to activate their abdominals and use our equipment to enhance their experience). I want to share 5 tricks you can use every time you take class to jump-start your abs and see results faster!
1. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe
I know it’s no secret, let alone a “trick” to breathe, however you would be surprised at how many times I have to tell clients to breathe during their abdominal workout. Working your abdominals requires deep, mental focus and attention to detail in order to execute the curls correctly, which lends itself to holding the breath. Establish a regular pattern of deep, methodical breathing from the beginning of class and you’ll find that it continues during curl. This will help you activate your deep abdominals and feel a burn in exercises that you previously didn’t consider as challenging. Your breathing alone will jump start your abs and make the work more challenging and effective for you.
2. Set Up Properly
Again, I know it doesn’t seem like much of a “trick” because, well, it’s the set-up of the exercise I’m referring to. However, in each class I see students rushing into position with fear they are going to miss out on a few precious repetitions. The reality is, if you don’t take the time to set-up properly, none of the reps you do are going to matter anyway. Sure you’ll be moving your body, (and movement is great, it burns calories) but you won’t be moving in the intended, targeted way and will therefore miss out on the purpose and the benefits. Don’t rush it. That doesn’t mean you have permission to lag 😉 Hustle into position, use the mirrors in the room to help you identify where to place your equipment and continue to listen to your instructor so that when you are properly set up you can jump right into the choreography.
3. Bend At Your Waist
Are you noticing a pattern here? This again doesn’t seem like much of a “trick” per se. However, it is the “trick” that’s going to trigger your six pack abs (the intended muscle group), and not your trapezius muscles, which is the most common area that co-contracts with your abdominals when you do curl (especially when you’re not using back support). The best way to effectively bend at your waist is to grip your glutes, plant your low back down (if it’s low curl or kickstand curl) and curl your rib cage forward. Use back support if your back is tight to help you maintain that deep bend at your waist. In this position, you are essentially compressing your abs against your glutes and using your biceps to help you hold the position (while you’re holding on behind your knees). Once you let go from behind your knees your abs are working hard on their own against the stabilizers. You will surely feel a significant burn as you hone in on your technique and improve your form.
4. Stay “Active” During Your Active Rest
Say what? But it says rest? Get out a pen and underline the word “active” not the word “rest.” Come on we don’t rest in bar method! When you hold back on during curl after an interval of choreography or reset your elbows down after kickstand curl, stay active by holding the bend at your waist and the grip of your glutes. Avoid the temptation to stretch here. Just think you are training your body and your mind when you take class. If you keep allowing yourself to release the muscle or stretch it out during the active rests you are teaching yourself bad habits. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Eventually your body will catch up with your mind, but you need to set your mind first!
5. Don’t Eat Crap
You’ve heard it before, and so have I! I’ve also ignored it before, until now…after my cleanse. I feel great and I’m not willing to go back to feeling like crap from the foods I eat. This one isn’t exactly a trick you can use IN class, however it is related to how you will feel in class and the results you will see from class. It’s simple, don’t eat crap! Avoid foods that cause inflammation, like sugar, dairy, processed meats, high-sodium foods, refined carbs, and artificial sweeteners…so in other words stay away from granola bars, turkey sandwiches, chips, and sodas and instead opt for cashews, avocados, kale salad with hemp seeds (a complete protein btw) and a good old fashioned glass of water! Throw in a sliced lemon, cucumber or piece of ginger to spice it up if you need to, then throw on your crop top and get after it with your sexy, flat abs!