All worthwhile fitness routines have a combination of three factors that are essential in getting and maintaining good muscle tone, stamina and a body beautiful.
A healthy regulated diet, an exercise program that benefits the whole body and not just one or two sets of muscles and ignores others, and controlled breathing during the exercise routine.
Of course there are other important factors to take into account that are common sense, such as not smoking, taking care over alcohol consumption, no occasional pigging out, not too many late nights etc., but these hints are designed to be of benefit while actually involved in exercising.
Getting that stomach flat and sexy means exercising all the muscles that make up the abdominal group to achieve good hip definition as well as a trim tum.
And ladies, some of these routines will give an added bonus by firming up the thighs and burning off the pockets of fat in the upper legs that lead to cellulite, but more of that later.
Remember that throughout these exercises it is important to tense and to keep tensed the abdominal muscles involved in each routine.
Make definite controlled movements with a slight pause between each phase.
Breath out on every contraction and take a deep breath in as you return to the start position.
Controlled regular rhythmical breathing is so important as it gets essential oxygen into the blood stream to the benefit of those muscles that need it, whatever exercises you are doing.
Finally it is important to achieve a balance between over exerting and becoming excessively tired and not pushing as far as a discomfort level.
Repeat each exercise until you can feel the beginning of muscle fatigue, pause for a short while and move on to the next. That way all the abdominal muscles (abs) will get the benefit. Exercise 1 This will benefit the upper abs. Lie flat on the floor with the knees bent, feet flat on the floor, hands behind the head and elbows extended outwards.
Keep your eyes looking forward at the ceiling as you raise your head, neck and shoulders upward, then using the natural abdominal muscles lift your chest and chin towards the area you have been looking at. Hold for a moment. Try to only use the abs for this and not the arm muscles and you will find that even though you may have moved only a very few inches the effect to start with can quite tiring. Slowly return to the prone position and do not forget to control your breathing. Repeat until you begin to tire.
Exercise 2. Now for the lower abs. Lie flat on the floor with your hands flat on either side of your head. Keeping the hands, head and shoulders flat on the floor raise the legs as near to the vertical as you can, keeping them together and straight at all times. Hold for a count of three and then slowly lower. Control is important in this exercise so make the movements definite without hurrying.
If you have access to an exercise bench then the exercise is easier to control as you can grasp the edges of the bench to provide more leverage. This exercise is great for the thighs and you can vary it by extending one leg at a time.
Exercise 3. Another bonus abs and thigh routine that concentrates on the upper and middle abdominals. Lie flat on the back with the hands behind the head. Hold the legs together and bending at the knees, raise the legs until the thighs are perpendicular to the floor. Looking forward and upward lift the chest and head toward that point. Hold for a definitive moment and lower slowly.
Exercise 4. This exercise is great for defining the waist and hips as it brings into `play the side abs. You will need a bar or straight piece of wood or similar about 4 feet long, a broom handle will do. Put the bar behind your neck and hold it either side with arms half extended and beyond the shoulders. With knees slightly bent and feet about a foot apart bend sideways from the waist without moving the lower body and, most importantly, stay upright at all times. Very slowly return to the upright position and without pause lean to the other side. Extend the leans either side as far as you can manage comfortably keeping a nice steady controlled slow movement, upright throughout and breathing correctly. This is not an exercise that requires great effort, just great control so carry on for as long as you can.
Exercise 5. A great exercise but you need some imagination. You have to find some way of being able to suspend your body off the ground, could be a tree in the garden, an accommodating door frame or, and this is the best, the horizontal bars in your local gym. Just hang and bring your knees as far as you can up to your chest before returning to the start. There are many variations from a suspended position all of which can be of benefit to many of the muscle areas of the body. Experiment, try out your own ideas, and hang in there!
Just remember not to overdue it.
If you strain an abdominal muscle it can take a long time before you can get back to any sort of abdominal exercise routine, apart from the discomfort you will experience day to day.
Toning that tummy will have to take a back seat. Remember control the breathing, control the movements and control the diet. All things in moderation!
Jacqueline Lloyd is the author of this article which appears in her definitive website Hot Exercise hotexercise.com