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Recently I have received a lot of questions, asking me which are the best exercises to do to get the six pack that everyone is so desperate to get. Well I hate to inform you, but ‘getting’ a six pack isn’t really about getting anything. It takes time, effort and hard work. There are no quick fixes and its not all about exercise. Its mainly about your diet but lets talk about exercise for now.
Let me start with an explanation of the anatomy of the abdominal muscles. Everyone is generally interested in improving the ‘superficial’ muscles, known as the Rectus Abdominis hence why the most popular exercise seems to be ‘the crunch’. Now, how many crunches are you doing a day to make you feel like it’s making a difference – 100, 200, 300? Does your neck start hurting? Mine does and it is no wonder.
A study on the effectiveness of popular abdominal exercises using a test known as electromyography was published in the American College of Sports Medicine’s Health and Fitness Journal 
The test involved placing electrodes on the skin over the abdominal muscles. Electrical energy triggers the muscle to contract, and this contraction is captured, recorded and analysed. The greater the intensity of the electrical signal, the higher the degree of muscle activity.
The results showed that sit-ups and the old faithful crunch were found to be ineffective when it came to improving abdominal muscles. The stresses they place on the spine and neck is not worth the risk or the effort.
Image source: 
There were also investigations into the deeper abdominal muscles, known as ‘the core’. These muscles are more important than the superficial ones that everyone is craving to get. The Core supports and stabilises the lower area of the body and spine. The best exercises for this tend to be plank and bridging type movements.
Six pack and core exercises
Some great ab exercises separated by The Core and the Six Pack are shown below:
- Side Plank
- V Sits
- Jack Knives on stability ball
- Captains Chair
- Reverse Crunch
- Scissor Legs
- Russian Twists
To really push yourself, try turning this into a circuit. Perform each for 20secs without a break and then do some sprints for 30-60 secs, rest and then repeat again. Depending on the intensity you can repeat a further 2 times.
‘CRUNCH, SPRINT, REST, REPEAT’!!
Just to side line things a little from the standard ab exercises, I found a recent study in the Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness on the effects of aerobic exercise training and combining resistance and aerobic training for people struggling with weight.
The evidence shows that high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can effectively improve abdominals and fat loss .
Ultimately, if you want that six pack, just doing ab exercises isn’t enough. A ripped tummy comes from having a low body fat percentage, having the right diet (NOT the low-fat, fad diets) and doing the right exercises at the right time. Ab exercises, however, seem to have no significant effect on weight, fat percentage or other measures of body composition, according to a 2011 study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research 
It seems, from the research shown and from my experience that if you want to lose belly fat try steering away from the ab crunches and start including interval training (HIIT) and resistance training. From there you can then focus on your food intake to really help reduce your body fat percentage.
If you would like to discuss your health goals, please get in touch on the below details and we can work together on an exercise and nutritional plan. Lara on [email protected] or go to www.larajezeph.com.
How stress affects your digestion
I am currently undertaking market research for a health and wellness program and I would like to chat with a few ambitious, confident & determined women, age 25-45 who are currently struggling with food intolerances, digestion issues, energy levels issues, stress and sleep challenges. Let me hear your views.
I would love 30-60 minutes of your time over the phone, Skype or FaceTime to talk about the challenges you face, your desires and your health expectations. In exchange, I am offering my complimentary “Anti-Inflammatory Foods” Guide as well a simple recipe for a natural probiotic to aid in healthy digestion.
Please contact me on the below above if you are interested. Discussions will be held between Mon 30th Jan – Fri 10th Feb 2017. You can read the article about the research group here.
 Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness – Volume 12, Issue 1, Pages 20–25, June 2014