The abdominal region is an easy place to store extra fat. This area is most effected by collecting fat because of a few reasons. First, there is not much bone support in the abdominal area. The spinal column runs down the center of the abdominal region. The spine is a very flexible and movable joint complex. It is hard to create a forceful contraction in the abdominals without proper bone support. The abdominal muscles are attached to pelvis, ribs. These two attachment are far away from each other making some of the abdominals long. When a muscle is attached to bone the muscle tends to be more contractable because as the bone is moved the muscle contracts. The tendon attachments that are on the bone make the muscle contraction more forceful (the stretch reflex). This constant movement produces more work from the muscle. The more work that a muscle produces the greater the metabolism that is created. For example, when you perform a bicep curl you can isolate muscle to produce a strong contraction. You can feel the tendons pulling and the bicep muscle get tight. This leverage advantage is key for developing a deep contraction and getting the muscle fibers to be recruited. The greater the intensity the more muscle fibers are recruited. All muscles that are directly attached to bone can easily be developed.
When starting an exercise program the first place that most people see a change in their body is in the arms and legs. The muscles of the arms and legs are directly attached to bone and can produce strong contractions resulting in greater recruitment and motor unit activation. Fat metabolism tends to be more efficient in "hot" areas. Hot areas are muscles that are worked hard and produce a fatigued state. The muscle is depleted and must be regenerated. Fat is dumped into the muscle after intense exercise to help repair and rebuild the cells, this is known as the "thermogenic effect. The more intense the exercise is the longer the thermogenic effect will be. The intramuscular fat deposits that are closest to the muscle tends to be used up first. Once the intramuscular fat is used up then fat from other areas of the body is sent to the worked muscle. It appears the muscle that is attached directly to bone produces a greater thermogenic effect. Please understand I am not talking about spot reducing. Spot reducing is a myth. Spot reducing suggests that only one area of the body can get lean and ripped while the other areas remain the same. For example, the belief is that if you work only the abdominals that they will get ripped and defined, while the other areas remain the same. This is just not true. What I teach is spot burning. I believe that we can isolate a muscle group to create more heat from that area. For example when I train my chest only, I feel heat radiating from that area for hours after the exercise, while the rest of my muscles remain cooler. That is what I am talking about here when I talk about creating the hot zone.
The second reason is since the abdominals are not directly attached to bone they don't have the ability to produce a long lasting thermogenic effect. The reason for this is because of all the tissue that is associated within the mid-section. The mid-section is comprised of muscle, fat, intestines, vital organs. The abdominal muscles surround and protect the vital organs of the body. However, without bone support the muscles are subject to collecting large amounts of fat. The abdominals lie on top of the vital organs and underneath the subcutaneous tissue and the omentum. So there lies the problem. We have muscle in between two areas that can collect large amounts of fat. The visceral area tends to store fat because of survival. Fat is necessary to protect and fuel the vital organs of the body. We all have a certain amount of necessary visceral fat around the vital organs of the body. It is when too much visceral fat is stored around the vital organs that becomes a problem. Next, the subcutaneous tissue and omentum tend to collect a lot of fat because those areas are needed to protect the abdominal muscles. Fat is needed to insulate the body. Fat helps regulate body temperature when tissues get too hot or cold.
When the abdominals are worked they can produce a thermogenic effect. However, this effect is short lived. It is very hard to keep the abdominal muscles "hot" because of all the fat protection. Since there is soft tissue on both sides of the abdominals the regulatory system of the body will quickly cool down the area when it gets overheated. This is a protection cycle that this instilled in us to help protect the vital organs. The vital organs don't like to be overheated for long periods of time. The fat in the mid-section helps to cool down the muscles. This makes losing fat around the mid-section more difficult.
The third reason for having soft abdominals is poor dietary habits. Eating poorly will result in added fat gain around the waist. Fat storage is greatest around the intestinal area because it is where food breaks down. Excess fat is stored in the omentum from the stomach. When the omentum is over active it creates high concentrations of cortisol secretions. Cortisol is an inhibitory hormone that is associated with stress. When a person is stressed out they tend to over eat carbohydrates. The added sugar gets stored. I believe that the reason why they tend to store more in the omentum than normal is because of vasoconstriction. When a person is stressed out the blood vessels tend to vasoconstrict (get smaller). Vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in the stomach and intestines tend to slow down nutrient absorption. This slow down causes a backing up of food. The extra sugar that can't get absorbed gets stored. The storage usually occurs around the mid-section. Not only does a stressed condition produce fat gain, eating the wrong foods also does.
Foods that contribute to added fat gain around the mid-section are, carbohydrates (including alcohol), junk foods, chemicals (including coffee). Carbohydrates come in many forms, grains, starches, fruits, candies, vegetables. Grains, starches, fruits, candies, cake, ice cream etc. are the biggest contributors to fat gain around the mid-section. I am often amused at the idea that to be healthy and to protect yourself against disease that we should all eat high quantities of grains per day. This is ridiculous. Eating high levels of grains will make you fat. The only amount of grains a person should consume is equivalent to a cup of oatmeal, or one to two pieces of 7-grain bread a day-- and that is it, no more. Eating junk foods loaded with salt, chemicals and preservatives will soften the mid-section. Eating protein and adequate amounts of green leafy water soluble vegetables is sufficient.
The fourth reason why the mid-section stays soft is because of too much low level cardiovascular exercise. People think that spending time on a treadmill, running out doors, riding a bike, riding the elliptical machine for long periods of time is beneficial. This is one of the biggest downfalls most people make. Performing slow cardiovascular exercise does nothing for losing the mid-section. You must do short bouts of intense exercise to get results. When you perform cardiovascular exercise for too long you burn up more muscle. When you lose muscle you lose the ability to metabolize fat effectively. Look at different body types of a sprinter compared to a marathon runner. The sprinter has well defined muscles and low body fat. The marathon runner has little muscle and is soft around the mid-section. To maximize effective abdominal definition, I recommend that a person perform no more than 15 minutes of high intensity cardiovascular exercise. Anything more than that is a waste of time in regards to burning abdominal fat in my opinion.
The fifth reason for softness around the mid-section is genetics. Some folks are just born with great genetics and have the incredible balance of hormones, fat, muscle and digestive efficiency to keep the abdominals looking great. They have superior physiological attributes. They are the lucky bastards of the world. For those that don't have good genetics, then there really much you can do to have those well defined abdominals, but you can help reduce the fat that collects under and on top of the abdominals.
The sixth reason why the mid section stays soft for some folks is because poor exercise selection. There are many valueless abdominal exercises that people perform every day that don't accentuate the mid section. I have developed an abdominal system that is fantastic in working the abdominals. I will be releasing my abdominal system in a few months, once I work out all the legalities. I must protect myself so that my idea and invention won't get ripped off. But until I release my abdominal system, the two best exercises to perform for the abdominals are the frog sit up and the abdominal bicycle.
The seventh reason why the mid section stays soft (especially for those over the age of 30) is because of lack of sex. Sex is a fundamental physiological need for the human being. The reproductive system draws a lot of blood to the area during the peak cycle of intercourse. This blood surge increases the contractibility of the reproductive muscles and organs. The mid section can burn a lot of calories during reproductive system activation. This system becomes weaker as we age and are not sexually active. So we lose the benefit of this system on keeping the abdominals trim. Often times women ask me how they can work the lower abs. Well unfortunately one of the best ways to work the lower part of the abs, below the belly button, is to contract the reproductive muscles on a regular basis. When the area becomes less active the blood flow also decreases. This will form a cold area making fat harder to be metabolized from that area.
The eighth reason for being soft in the mid section is adrenal, pituitary, and thyroid gland dysfunction. If there is any type of imbalance in the regulating hormones of these three glands then the ability of losing fat is compromised. These three little glands do a great deal in regards to metabolism and keeping the body lean. If you are taking medications or have had the thyroid or parathyroid glands removed then it will be harder for you to have a lean mid section. There is a direct link to fat accumulation and healthy glands.
The ninth reason for being soft around the mid section could be related to low levels of anabolic hormones. Testestorone, growth hormone, insulin, progesterone, estrogen, decrease in concentration as we age and/or if we are sedentary. These hormones are essential in building muscle and maintaining proper fat metabolism. Low levels will result in abdominal fat.
The tenth reason for being soft around the mid section is not knowing how to breathe correctly. When we were babies we would use the diaphram completely. If you ever notice a baby sleeping their belly fills and extracts, they are breathing deep from their diaphram. As we get older and more stressed we tend to breathe from the the thoracic region. We aren't fully engaging the diaphram. When performing abdominal exercises many people hold their breath or does shallow breathing (thoracic). The abdominals don't fully engage because too much air is being contained in the abdominal region. This will produce an effective effect. To remedy this I recommend that you breathe completely, focusing on getting all the air out of the abdominals. Breathe through pursed lips, as if you were trying to blow up a balloon, when contracting the abdominals.
Through discipline and perserverance you can help reduce and maintain a healthy mid section. My motto is "if you can contract it, then you can build it." What this means is as long you can activate a muscle, making it contract and tight, then your muscles are responding. If you can't contract a muscle then you won't be able to develop that area and will most likely store fat. Fat tends to store more in cold areas. If you follow the recommended suggestions for improving the mid section you can significantly lose the extra fat collected.
Tags: Abdominals, Vince Gironda, Daryl Conant, Ron Kosloff,