First things first, everyone has six pack abs. Yes, everyone, even you with two tires in the midsection. No, I am not deluded or making false proclamations to get your attention. The only problem is that often these six pack abs are obscured by layers of fat. So, it doesn’t matter how many crunches, leg raises or planks you do. If you don’t lose the fat with the combination of intense cardio exercises and controlled diet, you will never get to see your favorite abs. The good news is that losing belly fat isn’t that difficult as it is made to be. All you need is dedication and hard work.
In case, you have done your work and have got those abs creeping out of the abdominal fat, you need to work on other muscles – the v-lines also known as sex lines (I don’t think there is a need for explanation about why these muscles are important, the name itself is self-explanatory). So, here are five exercises, which done twice a week will help you get the enviable and hot v-line abs.
The reverse crunches work that area of the core, which is often neglected by the majority of the abs exercises, least of all by the famous and traditional crunches. The reverse crunches mimic the movement of the usual crunches in the reverse to work your lower abs hard. The key is to do this exercise in a slow and controlled movement and to squeeze your abs while doing the contraction. Also, the reverse crunches work your external obliques, which is another underrated and underworked, yet important core muscle group. Another benefit is that unlike the classic crunches, your back isn’t rounded while doing this exercise, which is a major cause of several back problems.
With your arms by your side and legs fully extended, lie down on the floor. Your palms should be on the floor and the arms should be stationary throughout the exercise. Lift your legs off the floor so that your thighs are perpendicular to the floor, feet are together and parallel to the floor. This is the starting position. Now, inhale, squeeze your abs and move your legs towards the torso by rolling your pelvis backward and raise your hips off the floor. At the top of the movement, your knees should be touching your chest. Hold the contraction for a second. Exhale and start moving your legs back to the starting position. This is one repetition. Repeat the movement to the failure.
Hanging leg raises
The hanging leg raises is the ultimate core building exercise. This exercise engages and works all your core muscles, and is arguably the biggest abs exercise, in terms of muscles engaged to complete the movement. And, the exercises that have the ability to work several muscles at a time are always a valuable addition to the workout. Apart from working your core muscles hard, the hanging leg raises is a barometer of your core strength. If you manage to do repetitions accounting to the double digits, then congratulations you have good core strength. However, you will need to double that tally if you are going to sculpt the v-line abs. And, apart from core strength, you will need endurance, flexibility, and stamina.
With both arms fully extended, hang from the pull-up bar. You can assume either medium or wide grip, depends upon your convenience. The grip won’t have any bearing on your workout and muscles to be worked. The pelvis should be rolled slightly backwards and legs should be extended straight down. This is the starting position for the exercise.
Slowly raise your legs until the body is bent at a 90 degree angle at the hips. Exhale as you perform this movement and hold the contraction for a second. Remember, you have to complete this movement by pulling across your core. You have to do it in a slow and controlled manner, which will ensure you aren’t using momentum to aid your cause. Now, slowly reduce the tension on your core muscles, breathe in and lower your legs to the starting position.
Remember, the form is very important in this exercise. So, avoid swinging your body to raise your legs. By doing this, you will rely more on your hip flexors to complete the movement. Another thing you have to be careful about is adding weight. If you are a beginner, adding weight is out of question. And, in case you have gained considerable core strength and can do leg raises bit more easily, then before adding weight to make it more challenging, consider making a small change to the exercise. And, that change is raising your legs all the way to the bar. Yes, you read it right, you will have to touch the bar with your toes. Again, you will have to do it in a slow and controlled movement.
No core workout can be complete without planks. This deceivingly easy looking exercise engages all the major muscles in your midsection. The forearm planks are tougher than usual planks, put more tension on your core and are easier on your shoulders and wrists. The best thing about the planks is that apart from strengthening your core, they engage the v-line muscles that give your midsection lean six pack look. Also, the planks can be beneficial in strengthening your lower back muscles. To get most out of this wonderful exercise, you would have to maintain tension on the abs by keeping them contracted throughout the exercise.
Spread a mat on the floor and lie on your belly on it. Now, spread your feet about shoulder width apart, flex your feet and curl your feet forward, so that the balls of your feet are firmly pressed onto the floor. With elbows bent, place your forearms on the floor. The palms of your hand should be facing down. Or you can opt to place your palms facing towards each other and press them together to make a fist.
Now, while keeping your back straight, squeeze your abdominals hard. Imagine as if you are pulling your navel towards your spine. Lift your hips and thighs off the floor by squeezing your glutes and legs. Your hips shouldn’t sag down or stick up too high. Remember at this stage, your body should form a straight line from your head to the toes. Now, breathe normally and try to hold this position as long as you can. When you can’t maintain the right form of the exercise or feel pain, you can lower your body down and relax the tension on your muscles.
Avoid creating an arch on your back at all costs. Some people do manage to keep hips in right position but when the exertion sets in, they have a tendency to arch their back to lessen the tension and prolong the hold, which is absolutely wrong. The only time you spend in right form will work your muscles, the rest is simply waste of time and effort.
Also, people have tendency to create buffalo bump at their upper back to compensate for the lack of upper back mobility and core strength. This way, the posture is easier to hold but you are relying more on your spine to hold up and taking tension away from the core muscles.
Lastly, you have to be careful about your head position as well. Allowing your head to flop down or raising it too high is as bad as any form mistake you can make while doing planks. Not only it reduces the efficiency of the exercise, but also puts undue stress on your neck muscles.
This is another exercise that heavily works the lower abs. The leg raises completely isolate the rectus abdominis, the muscle responsible for adding tone to your midsection. Plus, doing leg raises regularly can drastically improve the strength of lower abdominal muscles and hip flexors. After regularly doing the lying leg raises, you will find marked improvement while doing the planks. You will be able to hold the pose for a longer period and the core contraction will be strong as well. Also, it will work your lower back and can be helpful in losing the love handles.
Once again, spread the mat on the floor. Lay down on your back with your legs extended straight out. With palms on the floor, your arms should be by your sides. Now, lift your heels slightly off the floor. This is the starting position of the exercise. While keeping your legs straight and knees together, slowly raise your legs up until they are pointing straight towards the ceiling. There should be a 90 degree angle between your legs and torso. Remember, you have to raise your legs only by pulling them with the help of your lower abs. And, the movement should be smooth and controlled.
Unlike other core exercises, you don’t have to pause at the top of the movement. As soon as you achieve the 90 degree angle, slowly lower your legs back to the starting position, which was, heels few inches off the floor. Bear in mind that until the end of the set, you don’t have to rest your feet on the floor. By doing so, you dissipate tension from the core muscles, which is never a good thing.
While doing the exercise, make sure that your upper back remains firmly on the floor. The upper back coming off the floor means your spine is working to lift the legs up, which apart from being bad for exercise effectiveness is worse for your back health. And, in case, you feel any discomfort in your lower back while doing the exercise, place a rolled towel under your lower back.
Also, you have to keep your arms by your side and firmly on the floor. This would give you a balance while doing the exercise. It will also prevent the formation of arch in your back, which as said earlier, can cause variety of back problems. To increase difficulty, you can opt to hold a light dumbbell between your feet.
Stability ball plank with reverse abdominal curls
This exercise combines two great exercises to finish off your abs. The plank as we all know will work all the core muscles including external and internal obliques, whereas the reverse abdominal curls will further work your V-line muscles and lower abs. The stability ball takes plank to a new level as the tension on your abdominal muscles is comparatively high and your muscles have to work harder to hold the posture. The key here is to maintain the right form and do the exercise at a slow pace so that your core muscles will feel the right burn.
Using the stability ball, assume the plank position. Your hands should be on the floor with shoulder width apart, whereas the shins and feet should be on the ball. Once again, your body from head to toe should be in straight line. Also, squeeze your core muscles and try to pull them in as much as possible. Now, as you inhale, bring your knees towards your chest. Keep drawing them in until your thighs form a 90 degree angle with your torso. Now, exhale and slowly extend your legs back to the starting position.
It goes without saying that you have to maintain tension on your abs throughout the exercise by keeping them contracted. Also, ensure you are doing this exercise in a slow and controlled movement. Also, don’t round your lower back or create a hump around your upper back. Also, with your eyes fixed on the floor, keep your head down.