Admit it! You hate doing crunches. You despise sit-ups. Who doesn't? They are absolutely deplorable! However, they are effective in toning and tightening the mid-section to some degree. Unfortunately, they are super uncomfortable. That's why everyone hates them. Every fitness personality since Jane Fonda has been trying to figure out a way to get us up off the floor. There are many alternatives designed to be a "more comfortable" way to work your abs. Some work well, some work not so well.
Happily you can breath a sigh of relief because there is one very effective way to get up off of the floor and still get toned abs. Have you ever considered the treadmill? If not modify your thinking a little.
The traditional use of a treadmill for most exercise enthusiast is running. Many op to use the treadmill when they can't do their daily run out doors due to inclement weather. The treadmill is an awesome choice for walkers too. Hitting the pavement for a brisk walk really is an effective way to lose weight. Treadmills are used for rehabilitation and physical therapy. So we can all agree that it works for overall health maintenance.
But how can a treadmill help your abs? Simple. Walk on an incline. More specifically walk on an steadily increasing incline. The steeper the incline the more intense the "pull" on the abdominal muscles. This is a very effective way to get back in shape after baby, but it may be a little intense for the latter stages of pregnancy. However, a moderate incline could be beneficial to maintain the abs while carrying baby.
Here is a little physiology without going too scientific:
First of all, women have more adipose tissue than men naturally. Our fat deposits increase with age, especially if our activity decreases. Our natural fat deposits typically rest on our hips (saddle bags), and our bellies, (muffin top, back fat, and lower belly pooch). Crunches and/or sit-up don't work for a lot of people, especially women because there is often a deposit of "fat" sitting on top of our abdominals that stand in the way of seeing our six pack. Many who are successful at revealing said six pack (think Janet Jackson's 90's mid-drift), usually find a way to burn the fat.
Cardio burns fat. It should be done for at least thirty minutes most days a week. Don't let the trendy fitness world fool you. Some say don't do cardio at all, others say only do cardio, but the truth is the magic lies in the middle. Resistance and cardio combined work best.
So what about the other half, resistance? There are a lot of technical fitness words that can confuse the lay person, but the long and short of it is simply this, the abdominal muscles work really hard to walk up an incline. That's the resistance part.
The rectus abdominis muscle runs vertically (up and down) the belly. The lower part of this muscle works intensely while walking up an incline. The remaining abdominal muscles, (external obliques, internal obliques and transverse abdominis), are in a bit of "crunch" the entire time you walk up a steep incline. They are being held in a isometric position to stabilize the body and all these muscles are exerting a high level of energy as the incline increases.
Doing thirty full minutes on the highest incline is not the most effective method. Alternating the incline is best (going up and down). This way the abdominal muscles are contracting and releasing (resistance training), and all the while you are burning fat and calories (cardio). As endurance increases the length of time can be extended. Try to go for 35 minutes. Work your way up to 40 minutes. Make sure to maintain a moderate speed, not too slow, not too fast. All treadmills vary depending on their make and model so one must adjust their equipment accordingly.
Here is an added extra bonus to the high incline method of walking on the treadmill: A toned backside and toned upper thighs. This workout truly challenges the body and is actually a great overall lower body workout.
For more science on why you don't have the greatest abs, even after doing sit-ups EVERY DAY, check out the article below.
Also, check out the featured video above on a diet that could boost your fat burning capabilities.