WHAT ARE THE BEST MUSCLE-BUILDING PROGRAMMES FOR YOUR ABS?

The abs are made up of a group of muscles: the rectus abdominis, the external and internal oblique muscles, and the transversus abdominis.

What are the best muscle-building programmes for your abs

The abs stabilise the centre of the body and can help you achieve a slender figure and the famous six-pack, while also protecting the discs in your spine.

WHAT ARE THE RIGHT EXERCISES FOR TONING YOUR ABS?

Before choosing the right programme for sculpting your abs, you need to set some clear objectives. As is the case with other weight-training exercises, endless reps are no guarantee of getting the result you want.

• In general, women want to achieve a slender figure and a flat tummy. To achieve that they should focus on doing long sets without adding weights.

• As for men, their aim is often to tone and bulk up and to build their muscle mass. For them, abs work involves increasing loads and weights as they progress.

Men and women looking to work on their abs can choose to do the same exercises. Some of the most popular exercises are as follows: floor crunches, pelvic/knee/leg lifts, sit-ups and exercises using accessories such as the wheel, ab mat, parallel bars, etc.

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WHAT'S THE BEST ABS PROGRAMME?

You can work on your abs as part of your regular weight-training sessions or at the end of any other sporting activity you take part in (team, combat and artistic sports, etc).

You should aim to do three or four exercises, with each one targeting different parts of the abs. Do 15 to 20 reps, taking a minute's break between sets (three to four sets). Take your time in performing each exercise and try to control your movements as best you can. You need to control your breathing when doing any type of abs exercise. That means exhaling through your mouth and holding your stomach in when exerting yourself and then inhaling, still holding your stomach in, as you return to the start position. Girls, try to engage your perineum when performing the exercises.

In addition to exercises focusing solely on the abs, you can also work on them by doing squats, deadlifts and exercises that work different joints together. The abs and the lower back muscles are heavily engaged when it comes to lifting loads. These are functional movements, similar to the ones we make in everyday life, and in performing them you can build your muscles evenly and in a way that's proven to withstand whatever life throws at them.

WHERE DO CORE STRENGTHENING EXERCISES FIT INTO ALL THIS?

Core strengthening exercises engage most of the muscles in the trunk and also strengthen the outer and inner abdominal muscles (rectus abdominis, the external and internal oblique muscles, and the transversus abdominis). Doing them helps protect the discs in your spine by toning the lower back muscles. Core strengthening exercises also improve sporting performance by guaranteeing the transfer of driving forces between the upper and lower parts of the body. There's no point developing the muscles in the upper and lower parts of the body if the centre is unable to transfer that power. A toned trunk can help you put more power into what you do in everyday situations and in your sport.

Here are some of the most popular core strengthening exercises: press-ups, abs exercises, squats, and pull-ups. An excellent alternative to conventional abs exercises, core strengthening techniques involve maintaining an engagement position (isometrics) for as long as possible with a view to working on a specific muscle or muscle group. For the most effective workout, muscle fatigue needs to be fairly significant.

Don't forget either to eat a balanced diet and to do some cardio training (treadmill, exercise bike, cross trainer, etc) at least once a week (for 30 to 45 minutes). Stamina activities help you burn off body fat, especially around the stomach.

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