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Taking the Jelly Out of Your Belly.

Ask anybody. There’s nothing quite like a sensational six pack.

Coors, Heineken, and Michelob aside, there’s nothing more ful-filling than a dazzling rack of abdominal muscles cemented firmly in your midsection, especially when the warm weather is still clutching on by the waist side.

Imagine the chiseled arms, the rippling chest, the amazing set of tree-trunk legs. And then picture a nice, plump pot belly pushing outward like a rising wad of Pillsbury dough, making hours of arduous work seem like a ludicrous endeavor.

Of course, a bloating beer gut on an otherwise finely-sculpted torso fits in like an outhouse in a penthouse. And few fitness experts would argue that the quality of your abdominal muscles can either make or break an impressive physique.

While the midsection is crucial to whether you’re perceived as being either ‘fit’ or ‘fat’, all the ab training known to man will not prevail without the adjoining dedication to both strict dieting and considerable amounts of cardiovascular activity.

In the meantime, here are a few exercises to take the haste out of your waist:

CRUNCHES: Lay down on a mat on the floor, bending your knees slightly so your feet are flat on the floor. Curling your hands behind your head, slowly lift your shoulders off the mat, squeezing your abdominal muscles with each raise. Be sure not pull your neck upwards; rather make it a natural, smooth-flowing motion. Lift only your shoulder blades off the mat and hold that position for a span of two seconds before slowly releasing the shoulders back to the mat. Be sure not to let your shoulders completely rest on the mat before beginning your next repetition. Do three sets of 30 reps, taking only a few seconds of rest between sets.

CABLE CRUNCHES: Set up a double-rope at the cable machine. With your knees planted on the floor, grab the ropes with both hands, locking them into the sides of your head. Slowly bring your elbows – and the resistance - down to your knees, holding the contraction for a two-count. Slowly rise up to a position where your torso is parallel to the floor and repeat the motion. Try three sets of 25-30 reps at a moderate weight.

KNEE UPS: Sit on the edge of a bench, grasping on the sides of the bench with your hands to maintain steady balance. With your legs extended outward, slowly pull your knees into your chest, squeezing the abdominal muscles during the contraction. Hold this position for two seconds and then slowly extend your legs before repeating the motion. Try to keep the rocking and bouncing at a minimum. Do three sets of 25 reps for this exercise.

KNEE RAISES: Find a firm grasp on an overhead chin-up bar with your arms spread slightly wider than your shoulders. Make sure that your feet are not touching the floor. Trying not to swing or rock, slowly bring your knees toward your abdomen so that your knees are locked at a 90 degree angle. Squeeze your abs and hold for a moment before slowly releasing your legs back to a straight position. Wrist straps are often used to assure a firm grip on the bar. Attempt three sets of 10-15 reps per set.

Any of these exercises can be done with your torso twisted at an angle in order to hit those stingy, hard-to-develop obliques. Also, abdominal muscles should be trained as frequently (no more, no less) as any other muscle group, which is on the average of one or two times a week.

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Take care,

Matt Canning

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