With fitness, as with many other parts of life, your hard work takes some time to pay off as discernible results. So when I say you need to start working on your swimsuit body now, it’s not an exaggeration. As a guy, my summer physique goals can be summarized as, “Lean enough to have definition, but muscled enough to look my age.” However, whether you’re shooting for “Not as flabby as last year” or “Hugh Jackman-mode,” your ab work will play a big part in bringing it all together.
Abs play a central part in keeping your body healthy. Your abdominal muscles, otherwise known as your core, are responsible for functional strength, maintaining a healthy posture, and keeping all of your internal organs in place. Joseph Pilates was such a huge advocate of a strong core that he formulated his entire fitness method around it. And, for better or worse, abs are the first place people’s eyes go when they want to determine someone’s overall level of fitness and health.
Say what you will about the tan, but Joe knew abs.
If you lead an active life, or you regularly do compound lifts that work many different parts of your body at once, including abs, then you may not need to devote special attention to your core. However, if you’re more likely to spend 8 hours a day in front of a computer than go outside for 30 minutes, then a little extra ab work would probably be a great idea.
1. Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro
Ab rollers have been popular for a while now, but they haven’t necessarily been good. Luckily, the Perfect Fitness Ab Carver Pro has been created as a simple, effective, and affordable ab roller solution. The Ab Carver Pro has a sturdy design to withstand all the punishment you can dish out, and the wide base makes it a bit easier than the traditional ab roller “wheel” to stay balanced and get the most out of each repetition.
2. Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball Kit
Balance balls were all the rage just a few years ago. They may not get as much press these days, but the Gaiam Total Body Balance Ball Kit is still a great investment. The great thing about balance balls is that they can work your abs no matter what you’re doing, since the abs are activated in virtually everything related to stability. Whether you’re doing crunches, pushups, or just sitting on it while you watch TV, you’re going to feel your abs working. There are tons of great balance ball exercises and workouts available, but I recommend avoiding squats until later down the line.
3. BOSU Standard Balance Trainer
Like balance balls, the BOSU Standard Balance Trainer can be used for many things besides ab work. However, its utility in ab training is undeniable because it relies so heavily on balance. BOSU, which stands for “Both Sides Utilized,” is the signature brand when it comes to products built to work your core, and the Balance Trainer is BOSU’s flagship product. I particularly love using a BOSU ball when the ground is really hard, which would otherwise make my bicycle crunches rather uncomfortable. For ladies still working on their pushup form, a BOSU ball is also a great spot to put your knees while doing modified pushups.
Now if you’re like teenage-me, you might be asking, “Why don’t I just do a bunch of sit-ups until I have abs?” I tried that method, and while I got some pretty sweet abs, I also ended up getting terrible back spasms. It turns out that fitness is best achieved by keeping all the different parts of the body in balance. Your core balances your lower back. Your left obliques balance your right. Your upper abs balance your lower. Stability is the key.
Crunches are preferable to sit-ups, and bicycle crunches are even better, but it is vital to maintain proper form at all times or risk injuring yourself. A lot of people can’t do bicycle crunches correctly the first time they try. The products above are excellent tools for investing in yourself, and they can help you work up to a level of baseline core strength that will allow you to venture out to harder ab exercises. Stay consistent with your workouts, and you’ll be doing the human flag in no time.