A nice thing happened to me the other day – a man offered me a seat on the tube. For non London types, this is unheard of and probably just meant I’d met the only chivalrous man in W1 – in my deranged mind though I’m thinking ‘oh god, I must look pregnant in this dress’. This of course has triggered a sudden increase in interest in ab exercises.
Because I like machines, my first stop was an Ab Crunch machine at the gym kind of like the one above. I got on, set the weight to 15kg, I crunched 15 times – felt nothing. Upped the weight to 20kg – crunched, nothing. 25kg, same thing – now this shouldn’t be happening. I have zero ab muscles, I should be feeling something by now. So I call over one of the gym instructors to check my form (not the one I spotted in Men’s Health with his top off I hasten to add – I’m avoiding him as I feel like a pervert). His answer, ‘don’t worry, it doesn’t work for everyone.’ He then showed me a nice little abs routine to try on the floor.
Of course once he’d gone my brain started whirring – what do you mean it doesn’t work for everyone, why? Next morning I got on the phone to my favourite trainer de jour James Conci-Mitchell. ‘Erm, I’m not sure that’s completely accurate,’ he told me. ‘Chances are there’s something very subtle about your form that means it’s not working for you – maybe your hip flexors are dominating the move. You need a trainer to look at you closely and tweak things,’ he explained – and then he added. ‘But what are doing on that machine anyway, it’s pointless for you.’ According to James, the machine only works the rectus abdominus muscle – and that is good if you want a six pack, but not so great, if you want to get rid of your girly ‘do they think I’m pregnant’ pooch. He suggests the best thing I can do is ramp my cardio up so it’s higher in intensity and strip off the extra fat padding out that area (I have been rather lazy with my intervals recently) then worry about toning things up.
As my mother and The Boyfriend will tell you though I have a stubborn streak and I however still wanted to add some tummy moves to my current plan. So, I gave the moves the gym trainer had given me a try for a week – some of them were non-starters are they just hurt my back too much (in the trainer’s defence, he told me not to do these if they did and has given me a move to strengthen my back so I can do them in the future), but here’s the three moves that don’t hurt my lower back and I can see/feel something happening with…
Normal planks: I’m not going to explain this one as I wrote a whole post about conquering my plank demons before – click on it, it’ll tell you the secret to holding them for longer.
Side planks: Now, when I wrote said plank post I refused to do this move which sees you lying on your side then lifting your torso off the ground so you’re balanced on your arm and toes – but having a trainer sitting staring at you makes you do things out of your comfort zone. It turns out my oblique muscles are far stronger than I suspected and I can hold a girly side plank where you rest on one knee and a toe for 45 seconds.
Russian twists – with added medicine ball: I’m to sit upright, tummy tight, arms outstretched holding a medicine ball – and then twist slowly to the left, then the right. It hurts – both my abs and my arms (but in a good way).
It’s not a huge routine, but it’s a start – and I follow it by a session on the rowing machine which always really tightens my tummy – again, my stupid lower back goes out if I don’t focus on my form and hold my tummy in throughout the whole session. What ab moves work for you?
Angel pic: www.freedigitalphotos.net