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Keep tabs on your abs

Do you feel like turning off the television each time you see Gisele Bundchen with her washboard stomach' Well, instead of turning green with envy, try out some ab exercises. “Ab exercises basically target the upper, middle, lower abdomen and also the obliques, that is, the sides,” says Preetom Mukherjee-Roy, fitness consultant, Solace Spa.

Adds Anubha Chakrabarty, director, Atlanta Health Centre for Women, a medical weight loss and fitness centre in Calcutta, “Ideally when a person is going in for ab exercises only, it is presumed that the person is not obese, that the body mass ratio and the W/H (waist-hip) ratio are normal. But it is important to consult your doctor before you start any of these exercises.”

Here are 10 exercises recommended by Preetom Mukherjee-Roy and Anubha Chakrabarty. Ball crunch is considered to be the best, followed by bicycle exercise, Captain’s chair, vertical leg crunch, long-arm crunch, reverse crunch, torso track, full-vertical crunch, ab rocker and the plank on elbows and toes.

Ball crunch exercise

“The ball crunch exercise is a good exercise for the upper and the middle abdomen,” says Mukherjee. When you lie down on an unstable surface like a ball, for instance, your spine takes its natural shape as a result of which your back gets more support. Lie with your face up with the ball under your mid-lower back. Cross your arms over your chest or behind your head. Contract your abs to lift your torso off the ball and pull the bottom of your rib cage toward your hips. As you curl, keep the ball stable, don’t let it roll. Ideally you should work out for three sets with 25 repetitions.

Full vertical crunch

This exercise is mainly for the upper and mid-section of the abdomen. “You can start with three sets of 25 repetitions and ultimately end with five sets. But it’s fine if you let go with three sets because after that it tends to get a tad boring,” says Mukherjee-Roy.

Lie on your back and stretch your legs towards the ceiling. Place your hands behind your head and contract the abs to lift your shoulder blades off the floor. At the same time, bring your toes closer to your face creating a “U” shape with the torso.

Long-arm crunch

“Make sure you have a strong back. The upper and the middle-section of the abdomen benefit the most from this exercise,” says Chakrabarty.

Lie on a mat and stretch arms straight out behind the head with hands clasped, keeping your arms next to the ears. Contract the abs and lift shoulder blades off the floor. Lower and repeat.

Torso track

“This exercise demands strict supervision” cautions Chakrabarty, “because it could hurt your back if you are not careful. Ideally, try it out only if you do not have any back problem.”

Grip the handles of the torso track and pull the abs in without holding your breath.

Exhale and move forward as far as you can comfortably. You’ll know you’ve gone too far if you collapse. Contract the abs to pull your body back.

Ab rocker

This exercise involves a rocking motion. Once again, it is the upper and the mid-section of the abdomen which benefit the most.

Plank on elbows and toes

“This exercise acts as a core muscle builder. The core muscles are your pelvic, back and abdominal muscles. If you have strong core muscles, you are less likely to lose your balance or suffer injuries from falling down,” says Mukherjee-Roy.

Captain’s chair

This exercise is for the rectus abdominus (which controls the tilt of the pelvis and the curvature of the lower spine) and the obliques. You need to lean against a Captain’s chair (a fitness equipment which comes without a seat) and grip arm-rests to stabilise your upper body such that you are practically hanging in the air. Press your back against the chair, contract your abs to lift your knees towards your chest. “Don’t arch your back and breathe slowly,” emphasises Chakrabarty.

Vertical leg crunch

“This exercise targets the upper and mid- abdomen,” says Mukherjee-Roy. Lie on the floor, with your face up. Stretch your legs straight up and keep your knees together. Now, contract the abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, and draw your chest closer to your feet. Keep the legs in a fixed position and when you have acquired the desired posture, imagine bringing your belly button towards your spine.

Bicycle exercise

Lie flat with your lower back pressed to the floor. Place your hands behind your head. Bring your knees up to a 45° angle and slowly go through a bicycle pedalling motion. Touch your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. Breathe evenly throughout.

Reverse crunch

Lie flat on the floor and place hands behind the head. Bring the knees in towards the chest until they are at a 90° angle, with the feet together or crossed. Contract the abs to curl the hip off the floor and stretch legs towards the ceiling. Lower and repeat. Use your abs to raise the hips.
So go ahead and work out. For all you know, it could be your neighbour who’ll be turning green this time.

DIET WATCH

A balanced lunch and a light dinner should suffice. Include plenty of low-calorie stuff and fibrous food.

Opt for vitamin-rich and mineral-rich food like leafy vegetables and fruits, and protein-rich food like fish, egg whites, soya beans and sattu.

Drink two-three litres of water every day. Drink most of the water by 6.30 pm. After 6 pm, the rate of metabolism in the body slows down, as a result of which women especially tend to feel bloated.

Go low on carbohydrates, sweets, bakery products and fried food. Avoid the glass of milk before bed.

If you’re the kind who’s never hit the sack before 11 pm, wrap up dinner by eight. “Clearing the table might actually be healthy,” says Vijaya Agarwal, chief dietician, Advanced Medicare & Research Institute Ltd.

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