Healthy cane column: Find ‘The Burn:’ tips for taking your stomach from flab to ab

What is it that every gym goer wants more than anything for Christmas? World peace? Economic recovery? No, my friends, it’s something more important than any of those things.
They want a trophy to wear under their skin with pride and pomp; the visual proof of ultimate fitness. I’m talking about a shredded midsection capable of grating parmesan of course! If you walk into any gym at any time, the mat area is the most populated. A sea of people contorting in ways you never thought possible as they try desperately to find “the burn” that lets them know their efforts are not in vain. Every day they are at the gym, abs are part of their routines, a part of their lives.
Don’t get me wrong, I am all about the abs baby, but there are some considerations that should be shared to make your quest much more fruitful. First, how will you be able to see those brand new ripples with a blanket of fat conveniently stored between your muscles and skin?
If you have a little extra meat around the midsection, then you should be focusing more on cardio. Increase the aerobic component of your workout until you reach a leanness that permits you to see your hard work.
Second, people like to say they want a “flat stomach.” What happens when you exercise any muscle? It gets bigger! This is called hypertrophy, and how do you propose to get your abs more defined without them getting bigger and bulging out more?  Your best bet is to get rid of the weights you are using to make your abs workout more difficult, and instead just focus on doing more repetitions and hitting them from more angles. This will serve two purposes: you will actually burn more calories, making you leaner, and you will avoid the bulking you see when using heavy weights.
So remember, if you want to trade in that keg for a six-pack, then hit the treadmill and get creative on the mat using your body weight as resistance.

Extra Tip: When performing straight leg lifts while lying on your back, make sure your lower back stays on the mat and that you maintain a slight bend in the knees. This puts the emphasis on the abdominals and not the hip flexors.

Jeremy Albelda is a senior exercise physiology major and a personal trainer. E-mail health questions to him at