How to Maintain Tight Abs Through Winter? Summer? Spring? Any season, I got you covered.
Even if you're staying warm in cozy sweaters and bikinis are pushed to the back of the closet, you shouldn't skimp on core-strengthening exercises. A 6-pack and strong core look not only sexy and impeccable on the beach or in your next selfie, but it also helps prevent back injuries, gets you better posture, and avoids other injuries during workouts. While diet and weight lifting are essential for strong abs, it is not just one thing or the other; they work harmoniously with nutrition taking about 80% of work to get you abs. Here are some of the experts' advice and my personal tips on how to maintain that 6-pack or achieve that 6-pack by summer!
Focus on Good Nutrition.
It’s a myth that you can spot-train and reduce fat in certain areas like the stomach by targeting them with exercise. To make your core muscles more visible, you have to focus on your overall body composition, a.k.a. the ratio of body fat or lean muscle mass. That means good nutrition is key, particularly as the weather transitions from winter to spring to summer and more people are enjoying picnics, outdoor activities, and more. Reducing body fat is about 80 percent nutrition and 20 percent exercise. How you do this can vary, but without a plan, no amount of exercise will make your abs pop. It doesn’t matter how many sit-ups you do if you're eating wrong. It is important to keep your focus balanced, and more importantly, be sure to keep your relationship to diet and exercise healthy.
Keep a Healthy Mindset with Diet and Exercise.
From personal experience, monitoring your diet and exercise obsessively is a slippery slope and can cause detrimental effects on ones physical and mental health. Learning to heal your relationship with your body, food, and exercise is something I continue to strive for, and everyone should too.
10 Guidelines for a Healthy Relationship to Food and Exercise:
Don't view food as good and bad. Welcome, all foods in your diet.
Find your own healthy balance. Everyone is different!
Cook for yourself. Create nourishing meals at home to feel more connected to what you consume.
Focus on feeling good, well-being and health.
Seek support and professional help when needed. A support system in your fitness journey is always key, but so is professional help when you notice unhealthy thoughts or habits beginning to form.
Move in a way that you enjoy and that feels good! Not just to burn calories.
Acknowledge when you're sore or tired and take a rest day!
Make intuitive diet and exercise choices. People who have been on restrictive diets with long lists of rules have often lost their natural hunger and fullness cues because they rely on calorie counts, schedules, meal plans, and devices to tell them when and how much to eat. However, if you turn inwards, you can trust your body to make the right choices.
Trust and love yourself. Be compassionate, make peace with your insecurities, accept that perfection doesn't exist, and discover what is important. Grow in ways that support what's important to you. Rinse and repeat.
The bottom line is that your relationship with your body, food and exercise is personal, unique, and requires regular attention to keep it healthy! We are all uniquely ourselves; no two paths are alike.
Set realistic goals, and stick to them. It’s also helpful to plan out what you want to achieve, how much time you have to do it, and track your progress. It’s all about managing your expectations. Even the best workout and nutrition plan won’t work if you can’t stick to it. To get results, make sure you keep putting in the work, week after week. The first step is creating a consistent schedule. Starting slowly with 20 to 30-minute workouts daily then building up to longer. A sample workout would include a warm-up, strength training, a few circuits of core exercises, and about 20 to 30 minutes of cardio at the end of your workout to maximize the caloric burn. If you’re trying to make major progress in a relatively short time, like a few months, aim to work out for about an hour a day, five days a week. Even if you don't work out for an hour 5 days per week, it is important to start small to build the habit. Every step counts!
Target every part of your core.
When most people think of an ab workout, they tend to picture crunches, but basic exercises only hit a few of the muscles that make up your core. For well-defined abs, you need to work on your entire midsection, including your sides (obliques) and lower back. For ab workouts that burn every corner, try Pamela Reif's many ab workout videos for free on Youtube. I try to do one every day to finish my workouts. Her workouts contain a combination of cardio, stretching, mountain climbers, russian twists, and side planks. Each video also contains a different target, such as full core, lower abs, or love handles.
If you want abs, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is avoiding the weight room. Weighted exercises like deadlifts, squats, and rows are some of the best ways you can work your core muscles. Using a barbell, dumbbells, or kettlebells forces you to stabilize your whole body to control the weight throughout the movement, which is great for building a rock-solid core and full-body strength.
My 5 Favorite Moves to Tighten your Abs:
Boat Pose: The boat pose is one of the most effective yoga/pilates poses for your core that requires balance. Try to keep your chest up and keep still!
Russian Twist: Mainly targets your obliques, and your back muscles will be engaged to strengthen and support your spine.
Pilates Hip-Ups or Reverse Crunch: If performed with control, this dynamic exercise will strengthen your lower abs in no time. Make sure to keep your core engaged throughout the entire motion!
Standing Side Bend: The standing side bend works your obliques and can help keep the love-handle area tight. I like that it simultaneously stretches one side of your torso while working the other. I personally love the challenge of using a heavyweight such as a 20 or 25-pound weight.
Scissor: Performing Scissors with your legs low to the ground and entire back (even lower back) flat on the mat, you work your legs, back, and abs.
A mistake people make is relying on hours of running or lifting weights alone. It is important to balance your workouts and keep functional strength training in your workout plan. I love Sami Clarke's functional strength training workouts available for free on her Instagram @Samiclarke or on her platform I subscribe to, FORM. If you’re trying to shed body fat or tone up and reveal your abs, you want the best of both worlds, even if it is just a walk after a session of lifting!
Please don’t overdo it!
Finally, and most importantly, it is best to keep everything in balance like anything in life. It is also important to recognize that fitness progress takes time, and you’re not a failure if you don’t have a six-pack for the summer (or ever). Spending too much time and effort on getting ripped can backfire, causing you to feel worse and burn out. To avoid getting stuck in a toxic cycle, it’s important to be patient with yourself and accept where you are right now.