Fitness

Off with the love handles

Workout options: Use the Swiss ball to work your abs. Photo: Special Arrangement  

You must have seen the TV commercials on those magic equipments to trim your abs. The models — who already have their six packs —try their best to sell these machines.

But the truth is that we cannot reduce fat around the tummy alone or for that matter one particular part of the body. There is no shortcut when it comes to exercising. It needs dedication and perseverance to flatten your abs.

More than looks

Needless to say, everyone (and there are no exceptions) wants a flat tummy to look good. But guess what? There are more reasons than just looking good.

A stronger midsection means enhanced posture and prevention of low back problems. More important, the fat around the waist is the key to health problems like heart diseases and diabetes to name just two. However if all you can think of is the need to have an enviable flat tummy that's a good enough reason to work on your mid section. So let's get a grip on those love handles.

GENES: Genetics not only decides your height, colour, physique, intelligence etc, but also your ability to store fat. But don't blame genetics when someone comments on your love handles. With appropriate exercise, a healthy diet and cardio, one can definitely defy the genetic code.

HOME TEST: A simple yet useful test is to pick up an inch tape and measure your waist around your navel and then your hips around your butt. Now divide the waist measurement by the hip measurement. This should be below 0.8 for women and below 0.98 for men. Now make it your target to reach optimal measurement, and work towards it. While at this, keep your ideal body weight in mind.

THE SCIENCE: The abs is like any other body part and needs to be worked on.

So here's a little info on the muscles around the abs. There are four main muscle groups: the outermost or rectus abdominus; external obliques, internal obliques and the transverse abdominus. The transverse abdominus is the deepest muscle and the most important one in terms of working out.

Transverse abdominus

Traditional exercises like crunches and sit ups work on the external muscle while neglecting the deepest layer or the transverse abdominus. Known as the TA, it forms the foundation for good posture, strong lower back, strong core and dynamic stability. The TA runs horizontally around the waist. Just put your palm over the navel and cough deeply. The immediate tightness you feel is the TA. The TA has the effect of pulling in the otherwise protruding abdomen.

It works exactly like a corset by creating hoop tension around the midsection and involuntarily contracts during lifts. Thus it is called the body's natural weight-lifting belt. It stabilises the spine and pelvis during lifting movements.

Failure to engage the TA during high intensity lifts is dangerous because that's when spinal injuries occur.

It has been estimated that the contraction predominantly of the TA and other muscles reduces the vertical pressure on the intervertebral discs by as much as 40 per cent. And what's worse, without a stable spine — one aided by proper contraction of the TA — the nervous system fails to recruit the muscles in the extremities (hands and legs) efficiently, and functional movements cannot be properly performed.

Exercises

So when you are next doing, the crunches, make sure the TA is working in tandem with the other muscles. Abs workout can be done frequently with at least three-days-a-week schedule depending on the intensity. Some of the best exercises to engage the TA are Pilates, Specific Swiss Ball Exercises. Beginners can start with simple core exercises like the iron man, superman.

Caution: Check with a certified trainer before you begin exercising.

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Printable version | Apr 15, 2021 12:21:33 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/fitness/off-with-the-love-handles/article2919774.ece

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