Absfacts

Stand tall

When you're walking, stand tall and picture a cape flowing off your shoulders, Superman-style, to ensure your best posture. A taller posture will give you the appearance of being slimmer, while also training your abs to stay taut and firm. Another good trick is to think of your back as a wall and your gut as a piece of furniture pushed up against the wall to keep it from buckling.

Watch your back

Contrary to popular belief, your abs aren't found just around your navel. They're an intricate system of muscles, connecting to your rib cage, your hips, and even your backbone. To have strong abs, you need not only belly exercises but also lower-back strength and exercises for your obliques (the abdominal muscles that run down the sides of your torso).

Tune in to muscle

Maybe you've heard of "muscle memory": the way your body learns to do a physical activity (like riding a bike) and never forgets. Well, your abs have a

Compound exercises. Another key part of the strength-training program is compound exercises, that is, exercises that call into play multiple muscle groups rather than just focusing on one. For example, with the Abs Diet Workout, we don't want you to exercise your chest, and then your shoulders, and then your triceps, and then your forearms. We want you to hit many different muscles at the same time and then get out of the gym. One study showed that you can put on 6 pounds of muscle and lose 15 pounds of fat in 6 weeks by following an exercise program that employs the compound exercises found in the Abs Diet Workout. What's even better is that those subjects followed an exercise plan for only 20 minutes three times a week. Not only do compound exercises make your workout more fun and more challenging, they will also increase the demands on your muscles—even though you're not actually doing more work. (For instance, the squat hits memory, too. If you consciously keep your abs firm throughout the day, they'll tend to stay firm even when you're relaxed.

Put exercise first

Research suggests that the best way to eat less at a meal is to work out right before it. This works in several ways: First, you're less hungry when your metabolism is revving, such as right after a workout. Second, you're thirstier, so you drink more water, which uses up space in your belly and relieves hunger. Third, with your metabolism revved, the calories you do eat get burned for energy pronto—not stored as fat.

Avoid the four-letter word

When you lose weight on a "diet," muscle is the first thing to go. It's more expensive for your body to retain than fat is, so when you run low on calories, your body dumps muscle mass and turns it into energy. When you go off the diet, you begin to gain back the pounds—but because you now have less calorie-burning muscle, the weight you gain is fat. By dieting, you've effectively turned muscle into fat.

a whopping 256 muscles with just one movement!) Greater muscle demand triggers your body to produce more human growth hormone—a potent fat burner.

If the only weight you've ever picked up is around your gut and not in the gym, don't worry that you're not familiar with working with weights. You can start by lifting any amount of weight that you're comfortable with—whether it's a pair of light dumbbells or a couple of cans of beans. Even if you start small, you'll grow stronger, start to build muscle, and keep your metabolism revved. As you progress, you'll build and burn more.

Focus on intensity. Go back to the guy I worked with. He ran 6 days a week, but he ran as slow as the ketchup at the bottom of the bottle. His intensity never elevated, and because of that, he never burned that much fat. Time and time again, research has shown that higher-intensity workouts promote weight loss better than steady-state activities. In a Canadian study from Laval University, researchers measured differences in fat loss between two groups of exercisers following two different workout programs. The first group rode stationary bikes four or five times a week and burned 300 to 400 calories per 30- to 45-minute session. The second group did the same, but only one or two times a week, and they filled the rest of their sessions with short intervals of high-intensity cycling. They hopped on their stationary bikes and pedaled as quickly as they could for 30 to 90 seconds, rested, and then repeated the process several times per exercise session. As a result, they burned 225 to 250 calories while cycling, but they had burned more fat at the end of the study than the workers in the first group. In fact, even though they exercised less, their fat loss was nine times greater. Researchers said that the majority of the fat burning took place after the workout.

The Abs Diet Workout recommends that you add one simple interval workout per week to complement your strength training. These are workouts of traditional cardiovascular exercise (run ning, swimming, biking) in which you alternate between periods of high intensity and periods of rest. (I'll explain more about how to create an effective interval workout in the next chapter.)

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