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by Michael Stefano

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We all want to look our best, for ourselves, and that special someone. But it's post holidays and your plans to diet and exercise have long since fallen by the wayside, causing your spare tire to over-inflate.

Of course, any fat stored around your midsection will mask even the most muscular torso, so eating right and staying active is an integral part of a program that attempts to shrink your waistline. With that said, let's take a look at how we can most effectively (and safely) tighten your core and midsection. For an all around, fat-burning workout, click here.

The most prominent layer, the Rectus Abdominus, is a thin sheath of muscle that runs midline from sternum to pelvis. It's what most identify as the ab sixpack.

Sometimes referred to as the lower and upper abdominals respectively, the Exterior Oblique and Interior Oblique muscles wrap the lower torso and also tie into the pelvis.

Finally, the Transverse Abdominus are deep horizontal muscle fibers that from run side to side, holding together your internal organs. The major action of the entire abdominal muscle group as a unit is stabilization of the back, spine, and pelvis, as well the action of bringing the ribs towards the navel and hips.

Leg Raise Start Position LEG RAISE - get a leg up
Lie flat on your back, legs straight. Bending at the hips and knees, slide your feet towards your buttocks until the arch in your low-back disappears and it flattens against the floor. Keep the low-back flat on the floor throughout ALL phases of this exercise.

Raise both legs to form a 90 degree angle at your hips and knees. Support your head with a folded towel, or just lie flat. This is your start postition.

1) Level One (slide) - From the position described above lower one foot to the floor, and slide it along the floor as you straighten your knee. Return to starting position. Repeat all reps on one leg, then repeat with opposite leg. This is a great entry level exercise for beginners.

2) Level Two (single kick) - From the position described above, extend one leg out by LIFTING the foot ABOVE the floor a few inches (straighten knee) and return to starting position. Repeat all reps on one leg, then repeat with opposite leg. Good for intermediate levels

3) Level Three (double kick) - From the position described above, extend two legs by LIFTING both feet ABOVE the floor a few inches (straighten knees) and return. Very advanced only!

When you can perform 20 to 25 repetitions at any level, proceed to the next level. Be sure to keep low-back flat on the floor throughout each level of progression.

To decrease overall intensity and help you maintain the low back on the floor, you can place the static foot on the floor or small yoga block for support. If you experience any back or neck pain, discontinue.

The Yoga Plank PLANK - avoid getting bored
This posture involves little if any movement to get a dramatic effect. From the classic push up position (see diagram), support yourself on your forearms and toes.

Be sure your back is straight and your abdominal muscles are contracted. Breathe naturally and never hold your breath at any time during the set.

It's important that your back doesn't sag during the entire set. Once you can't maintain a straight back, it's time to end the set.

Perform just one or two sets, and hold for up to one 30 seconds (not more to start). Extend this to a minute or more, increasing gradually (add a few seconds per session).

You can decrease overall set intensity by modifying the start position. Support yourself on your knees instead of your toes. All else remains the same.

The above combination of exercises, if done properly, will flatten, tone, and tighten your abdominal muscles, improve posture and appearance, and possibly relieve symptoms of low back pain. Of course, no amount of abdominal work will remove the layers of fat you've accumulated over the last 20 years through overeating and under exercising.

A properly orchestrated strength and cardiovascular program, combined with sensible eating is the best way to achieve that. Find out more about Michael Stefano, and his customized programs. Let Captain Mike help you lose weight, while achieving optimum fitness.


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