Navel Maneuvers

Every 36 minutes, a visitor to the Men's Health US website clicks on "Ask the Muscle Guy" and throws a question to Lou Schuler, Men's Health US's Fitness Director. People ask 14,600 questions a year. The question he's most often asked? "What do I do with my abs?" Since we know for a fact that there are a lot of men here in the Philippines who are also obsessed with their midsection, we picked nine popular ab-related Qs and turned to Mr. Schuler for some answers (thanks Lou!). Here are a few pieces of advice.

Q: I'm very lean-less than 10 percent body fat-but I still have only two visible segments of my six-pack. How do I get the final four?

A: When I first started working out in a commercial gym, circa 1980, there was this guy who'd come in and start his workout with a set of full situps on a slant board, which was the opposite of what everyone else was doing back then. We were doing hundreds of cute little crunches while he was doing dozens of nasty situps. Guess who had the abs?

I like the full-range-of-motion ab exercises, as opposed to the truncated crunch variations, for three reasons: One, full situps are harder, and I think harder is better. Two, they force other muscles in your thighs and trunk to help with the exercise, and I believe the more muscle you use, the more muscle you build. Nature didn't design your muscles to work in isolation; why try to build them that way? Three, their reputation as being hard on a healthy back is exaggerated. (There's some risk, but not more than in exercises such as reverse crunches, which no one regards as dangerous.)

Here's how to do the full situp on a slant board: Hook your feet under the braces, lower yourself until your lower back is flat against the bench, then pull yourself up to a full sitting position.

As you get better at it, you can lower the angle of the slant board and increase your knee angle-that is, put your butt farther from your heels. I like to do this exercise with straight legs. From that elongated position, first push your lower back against the board, flattening your spine, then start curling up.


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