Reader’s Request: Fab Abs

Hey bloggies 😀 It’s time for another reader’s request post!

Hey Gina,

I work out my abs pretty often and still don’t see any definition! Any tips? Also, what are your favorite ab exercises???


Ahh, the coveted toned girly abbies.

girl-belly  (Source)

Now, I’ve never been one to desire a serious 6 pack. The abbies above were the ones I wanted most- lean, toned, flat. So after I lost the weight, I started to do ab work everyday. I had no idea that abs are just like any muscle group; therefore, they need REST to grow back leaner. I did a half hour of abs every single day and was pretty frustrated when they didn’t look like I wanted them to.

Here’s a secret:

You need to do a few things for beautiful abbies, but the most important on the list are:

1. A super clean diet

2. Cardio

You’ve probably heard the saying that everyone has a 6-pack, but it’s just hiding under a layer of fat. This is partially true— we tone our abs unintentionally throughout the day by doing everyday activities. We stabilize our abs to allow us to perform basic functions (walking, putting groceries away), which makes abs some of the most overworked muscles – especially we’re doing a ton of ab exercises on top of that. Even though we’re working out our abs, we’re unable to see definition if our diet is poor or we aren’t performing cardio to blast fat.

Cardio and clean eating enable our body to burn fat (in addition to weight training, which also boosts metabolism and lowers body fat) so that is why it’s so important to eat well and get your ticker going. When the fat melts away, it takes up less space between the skin and muscle, making the ab ‘cuts’ more visible.

For cardio:

-Aim for at least 20 minutes, everyday for health; 30-45 mintes 5-6 days per week for aerobic and fitness improvement

-Vary your cardio intensities. There’s no need to go balls to the wall everyday. Your body will get used to your cardio routine and kick into cruise control if you don’t change it up every now and again, whether you’re used to low intensity or super high intensity. To shake things up, try some hill or sprint intervals or using the cardio equipment differently (like going backwards on the elliptical, or doing side shuffles on the treamill)

-Remember that consistency is key. If you stick with it, you’re going to see results eventually. Hang in there!

For eats:

-Strive for a balanced diet of whole, unprocessed foods with smart carbs, lean proteins and healthy fats. For meal ideas, check out week 1 of the Summer Shape Up.

-My abs look best when I avoid alcohol and sweets. Since I can’t live like that 365 days a year, right before spring I kick things up a little. Stay tuned for the Winter Shape Up where we’ll clean up eats and add some pep into our fitness routines 😀

Favorite Ab Exercises

To me, the best abdominal exercises are ones that work the transverse abdominis, which is deep in the abbies beneath the internal oblique muscles and wraps from front to back. Pilates moves target this area well particularly:

The pilates teaser

single leg circle

Dolphin plank pose

Some other favorites:

Captain’s chair leg raise

frog crunch

circle obliques (under August 8 workout)

sideways sit ups

***A couple of things to remember about weight training your abs:

-Aim for 3 sets of 10-15 per exercise

Give your abs at least 48 hours of recovery time before working them again (or else the muscles will continue to tear with each workout session and wont have adequate time to repair and grow back leaner and stronger)—when I worked my abs the most, they actually looked the worst. My definition didn’t start to show until I kicked up my cardio and gave my abs some R&R time.

-Work back muscles just as often as your ab muscles  (a balanced weight program is muy importante and will help to keep your body proportional)



Happy training and please hit me up with any more Reader’s Requests! 😀



What’s your favorite ab exercise??

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  1. Jessica @ How Sweet It Is on December 21, 2009 at 3:00 pm

    I’m a huge plank fan! Love ’em! 🙂

  2. Jess on December 21, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    This is EXACTLY what I need to hear! Yay!

  3. miriam on December 21, 2009 at 3:25 pm

    Great article, thanks! I was actually in need of new abs exercices! 🙂 One thing though, what you said about cardio (to change up your routine mostly everyday) is also true for the abs workout : you should change it up each time. I do abs about 10 mins 4 times a week. There is so many abs exercices you shouldnt stick to the sames! Use the ball, sitting on it, lying on the mat your feet on the ball, use the captain chair, straight legs, 90 degres, sideway, use the bench and a swiss ball, holding it in the air while contracting, sideway, rolling it on the floor, on each side or turning it around, use the mat and an elastic band as resistance, even use the machines, ect! That way your routine always change and you don’t get bored, it makes it even fun! 🙂

  4. Andrea on December 21, 2009 at 3:33 pm

    I am so excited to read you are doing a winter shape up!!

  5. The Hot and Fit on December 21, 2009 at 3:38 pm

    Side Planks and scissors!

  6. April on December 21, 2009 at 3:41 pm

    My favorite ab moves are decline sit ups and mountain climbers(killer for the obliques + good cardio move). Abs really are about eating clean and getting your BF low. I only work mine 6 times a month and with a good diet I have a 6 pk 😀

  7. Averie (LoveVeggiesandYoga) on December 21, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Great post! Ardha sirsasana. I’ve posted about why I love that pose for abs. And I totally agree on the dolphin plank and all your other moves, too. And of course, a super clean diet. High raw all vegan doesn’t hurt IMP but everyone’s body is different. Oh and I like slow bicycle on your back, too for abs. Happy Solstice! Are you doing 108 today? 🙂 I didnt get there but wanted to!

  8. fittingbackin on December 21, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    I love this post!! You totally inspired me to do more abbie exercises. 🙂 My favorite is the pilates astronaut!

    Looking forward to winter shape up!

  9. ashleigh on December 21, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    yay i am so excited for a winter shape up program!!

  10. Stasa @ Simply Living on December 21, 2009 at 3:47 pm

    Looking forward to winter shape up! Great post!

  11. Holly on December 21, 2009 at 3:52 pm

    Thanks for posting this! I do abs 3 x’s a week, but I get confused because I see people who do ab work everyday. Like you, I actually see better results when I have a rest day between. I think because I can give it my all when I do them. 🙂

  12. Kailey (SnackFace) on December 21, 2009 at 3:53 pm

    Gina!!! YESSSS THANK YOU!!!! This is exactly what I need. The hardest part for me, I think, will be to cut out going out so much in the winter! We’ll see. You’ll be plenty of inspiration for me! Thanks bunches 🙂 Hope your Monday is going brilliantly!

  13. rachael on December 21, 2009 at 4:01 pm

    I love the teaser! Just a few teasers a few times a week does wonders! My stomach muscles split while I was pregnant and I swear the teaser made my tummy “normal” again. It is true that we use our core in everything we do . . . I recently discovered that shoveling snow is a fabulous ab workout!

  14. Laura J. on December 21, 2009 at 4:06 pm

    I tend to forget how important eating clean is for nice abbies and that it’s not just about working them out. Thanks for the reminder 🙂 What a great reader’s request post!

  15. Katie on December 21, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    I can’t wait for the Winter Shape Up! This Holiday season, I have NOT been very kind to myself in the eats department!

  16. Ashley (whole-ier) on December 21, 2009 at 4:17 pm

    This may sound cruel, but a long time ago I watched one of Janet Jackson’s trainers give the following ab workout- while doing normal crunches have a partner lightly tap on your abs on the inhale to help keep the abs contracted. It kills (in a good way that is).

  17. JessicaR on December 21, 2009 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the great post! I’ll have to check out some of those ab moves. 🙂

    Off-topic… has the fatigue you experienced from going off birth control pills gone away yet? I stopped two weeks ago and feel like I have been hit by a truck 🙁 I really want my energy back!

    • Fitnessista on December 21, 2009 at 7:35 pm

      hey girl,
      YES. i’m not 100% yet but feel remarkably better. hang in there!

  18. elena on December 21, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Dolphin plank is one of my favorites. The next one, and I am not sure wht it is called, but I like laying on my back, legs up at 90 degrees, arms to the side, lowering legs SLOWLY until they ALMOST hit the floor, then pulling them back up and doing it again–it really gets the abs burning.

    I will have to try the Frog Crunch.

  19. Naomi on December 21, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    chair leg raises-awesome!! 🙂 also plank!!

  20. caronae on December 21, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I like boat pose! If you stay in it for more than a few seconds it gets really hard. I also like full on v-ups.

    • Fitnessista on December 21, 2009 at 7:32 pm

      ohhh v ups are awesome 😀

  21. katie on December 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Thanks for this! Great post!

  22. Amy L on December 21, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Wow this is great!!!!!!

    I would love to see more fitness posts. Especially not involving the gym. 🙂

  23. Danielle (Coffee Run) on December 21, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    I totally agree, people tend to focus too much on strength training their abs and not enough on cardio. My fav exercise would be bicycle crunches!

  24. Heather @ The Joyful Kitchen on December 21, 2009 at 6:43 pm

    Frog crunches are so fun/hard! Thanks for the tips Gina!

  25. Melissa (Melissa Likes To Eat) on December 21, 2009 at 7:10 pm

    Thanks for all the great tips! My abs are my weakness for sure! I’m pretty happy with most of my body except for my abs. Excited about the winter shape up!!

  26. Katie O. @ Fit to Wed on December 21, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    Great post! I love boat pose and all of the variations involved.

  27. Jessica (fit and clean) on December 21, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Ooooh. I am so looking forward to the winter shape up. My issue is that I am a cardio junky, and when I do cardio, if I don’t go “balls to the wall” (haha you crack me UP! 😉 ) I don’t feel like I worked out. The classes that I take are exactly that, also (Les Mills). I am going to start training for the 1/2 at the end of the month so I need to cut back on my classes because I have a tendency to over-train and injure myself. Thanks for the great article 🙂

  28. Carolyn on December 21, 2009 at 10:07 pm

    I think I might be in for winter shape-up!!

  29. Gloria on December 21, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    These tips are awesome. I used to work out my abs 5 times a week but would truly notice the 6-pack after a few days of “slacking”. I have to give a shout out to pike on the stability ball… not just abs but total body strengthening!

  30. melissa (fitnessnyc) on December 21, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    thanks so much for posting this info! yes, that photo is pretty much the ideal! any advice for slimming the thighs and calves, skinny jean plan if you will?

  31. Ilana on December 22, 2009 at 2:22 am

    Great post. I’ve been doing Pilates for a few months now and I really want to add cardio into my routine, because I knowww it will help blast the flab that’s bugging the hell out of me (no one else can see it but I CAN AND I WANT IT GONE!) I absolutely LOVE Pilates and I have no problem doing it almost every day (4-5 days a week), I love how I feel after a class and in between, I love how much my posture is improving … I recommend it to every single person, I’m obsessssed.

    …also thank you for posting that picture because I’ve been self-flagellating myself and this picture reminded me that I am pretty close to ideal so i really need to lighten up on myself…it’s crazy how easy it is to get carried away in the mirror.

  32. MizFit on December 22, 2009 at 5:44 am

    yes yes yes yes yes 🙂
    for me abs are 100% made in the kitchen.

    for a few lucky friends abs are made with halfhearted cardio and semiclean eating.

    damn genetics 🙂

  33. Paige (Running Around Normal) on December 22, 2009 at 8:14 am

    Love and agree with everything you wrote in this post! I need to get myself in a pilates class to start working my transverse abdominis!

  34. Andrea@WellnessNotes on December 22, 2009 at 8:38 am

    Great info! I’m looking forward to your winter shape up! 🙂

  35. Kelly on December 22, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Hey! Appreciate the abs post — so many people ask about this all the time! It is — single-handedly — the most asked question I get at the gym! (And I’m not even a trainer. LOL)
    However, I want to point out that you need to be careful when mentioning a page full of information about doing abs — and then only a single line about working your back.
    Any chance you’d go back and add to, or do another post for, making sure you work your back appropriately? Especially your lower back. I see so many people focus on your “front” and “side” abs…you really need to focus on the whole package! It helps in many cardio and daily life activities as well!

  36. Good Taste. Healthy Me on December 23, 2009 at 10:40 am

    Love the tips! I also like the link back to the summer shape up! I may have to go back and look through all those posts! 🙂

  37. Kirsten on May 1, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I usually add honey to my oatmeal or plain Greek yogurt as a sweetener at breakfast, is that ok to do?

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