Toned abs and arms are probably on most peoples’ wish list as we start to bare all in swimsuits and short-sleeve tops. But sadly these are two of the most problematic areas for many. Typical, hey?
But don’t fret. Simply follow our guide to learn the best ways to start training and eating for a firmer abdominal area and leaner arms. It’s not as hard as you think — epic!
For most of us, having a visible six-pack is distant dream. The abs are hidden behind a layer of fat, and to see them this layer needs to be very thin – like 15% body fat thin. So that explains it then!
But you don’t need to have a six-pack to have good abs and reap the benefits of a strong core. The various, interrelated abdominal muscles are large muscles that help with a number of health concerns, not least for people who spend a lot of time behind a desk.
Since they are large muscles, exercising them also fires up the metabolism, which again leads to more weight loss – both while you are exercising and afterwards.
From the innermost layers in your mid-section to the outer, the muscles you want to train are:
- transverse abdominis
- internal and external obliques
- rectus abdominis
The first three are important core muscles that can’t be seen and are difficult to feel, but are central to maintaining good alignment, to a strong back and your mobility.
The rectus abdominis is the outermost muscle and the one you usually associate with the abs, or the six-pack.
Together all these muscles serve functions like:
- correct body posture
- stronger back
- supporting internal organs
- child birth
THE BEST ABS EXERCISES
For a long time, crunches were the only way to train the abdominals. However, a study of the effectiveness of 13 different abs exercises at the San Diego State University found that the traditional crunch is the least useful exercise when it comes to building your core and toning your abs. (Breathe a sigh of relief with us!)
In fact, when it comes to strengthening the core, crunches can do more harm than good because they only exercise the outer layer of muscle and not take into account the inner muscles that make up your core.
Deeper, smarter training exercises are necessary if you want to build your abs from the inside out. These include:
- Oblique curls
- Hanging knee tucks
- Crunches with the ball
- Reverse ab curl
Spot exercise alone won’t give you a flatter tummy, but there are some activities you can do if you’re serious about that six-pack:
- Limit your intake of saturated fats.
- Be careful with what you drink.
- Deal with your stress levels.
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Bingo wings, tuck shop arms, nana flaps … whatever you call them, one body issue that most women dread as they get older is saggy upper arms. The tricep – the muscle underneath your upper arm – tends to lose tone and definition easily in some women. What’s going on? With summer and spaghetti straps just around the corner, it’s time to tone and hone.
Exercise scientist, Martha Lourey-Bird, said there are several factors involved. One is that triceps don’t get worked as much as other muscles in day-to-day life, so they’re not naturally as toned, and another is losing a lot of weight very quickly without exercising.
GENETICS AND GENDER
A key factor, however, is your genes, how you store body fat and build muscle. “If the older women in your family have tuck shop arms, there’s a good chance you will also develop them,” Lourey-Bird explained.
Differences between the sexes also have a role to play. “Just look at how a normal man’s shoulder differs from a woman’s,” said Lourey-Bird. “It’s twice the size, and a good example of just how much muscle mass a man has naturally compared to a woman.” Team this with more testosterone in men, which lends itself more towards a higher muscle-to-fat body ratio. Yes, it’s that age old battle of the sexes argument again…
FIRMING UP FAST
So how can you improve saggy arms? According to elite performance coach Lee Parore, specific exercises can help to tone this area. “The best thing is resistance exercise, along with sound nutrition, which stimulates the growth of lean muscle tissue in both men and women,” he said. “As for workouts, other good exercise types which help to tone arms include swimming, gymnastics, boxing, tennis, skipping and yoga.”
THE FOOD FACTOR
When it comes to nutrition, your diet can also be a factor, although Julie Gilbert, an Accredited Practicing Dietitian, said you can’t go on a diet to target weight loss from your arms. “Another important point is that if you want to lose weight, aim for no more than two pounds of loss a week as this puts you at a higher risk of being left with saggy skin,” she said.
“Losing more than this means you will be breaking down lean tissue and muscle, not just fat, and this is especially important if you are older, as the skin becomes naturally less elastic with age, and more likely to be left ‘stretched’.”
To promote good muscle tone, Gilbert recommends eating plenty of lean protein such as lean meat, fish and lentils, and low-fat high carbohydrates such as bread, rice, grains and high fibre cereals. “It’s important not to cut out any food groups,” she said. “You need to eat all foods, including lean protein, good carbohydrates, as well as fruits and vegetables.”
EXERCISES FOR TONED ARMS
Three of the best exercises for improving the tone of your triceps and upper arms include:
- Tricep push up
- Bench dips
FREE POST TRAINING RECIPES
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