So, what do you do to get a toned and tightened stomach? The first thing you should do is stop focusing on doing exercises that are unnatural (how many times a day do you lift and lower just your upper body) and ineffective. Most professional athletes, fitness competitors and exercise experts do not get their great abs from doing crunches. Instead, they do exercises that rely on their core muscles as stabilizers to correctly and efficiently do the exercise. This means that every time they do these exercises, their core muscles are getting a workout as well thus eliminating the need to do an infinite number of crunches. Taking this information into account, your next step is to always think about contracting your abs and using them every time you exercise. Consider push-ups for a moment. You know that you are not only relying on upper body strength, but also core strength to hold that plank position during the movement. Pull-ups, whether assisted or not, also require a lot of tightening of the abdominal muscles which are needed to assist you in pulling your body up to the bar. The same principal should be used when you are lifting weights—contract your abs every time you lift and lower the weights.
What you may not realize is that whenever your hands are above your head or they are lifting something overhead (like a shoulder press, for example), your abs are doing a lot of work. Try this out and feel the difference—instead of doing a regular squat, put your hands behind your head and squat. If you really want a challenge, hold a pair of weights overhead and do a squat. This will kick your abs into high gear as they need to keep your entire body stabilized so that you can perform the squat correctly. You can do the same thing with lunges. Just remember to go slow—especially if you are using heavy weights.
Finally, there is one more piece of the six-pack puzzle—diet. All those rollouts, mountain climbers, squats and push-ups will not do much good if you are not eating clean. Pay attention to your diet, making sure sugar, salt and processed foods are all but gone. Stick with the basics of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy fats and you cannot go wrong. Before you know it, you will be itching to bare all and show off that chiseled midsection!