5 Steps to a Toned Torso
The 5 unexpected truths to help you tone up your mid-section this summer
Fitness and Health Column by Matt Kay
Almost every single person that steps into our studio wants a flatter tummy or more to the point a 6 pack yet so few people know how to get one. There are many misconceptions about what it takes to get a great looking mid-section and it’s certainly not about undertaking hundreds of sit ups over and over again and as fast as possible.
There are in fact five steps you need to take to get a toned torso and here they are:
- Clean Up Your Nutrition
Keep it clean and your tummy will become lean. If there is one step above all others that will help you strip body fat from your mid-section this is it. To achieve the fastest possible results consume a diet high in protein (meat, fish, poultry), good fats (avocado, coconut oils, nuts, seeds) and get your carbohydrates from vegetable and fruit – go for fruits grown in the UK/Europe as tropical fruits are higher in sugar. So number one, clean up your nutrition, and you will be 80 per cent towards getting a flatter tummy.
- HIT Your Belly Fat Off
So many people get cardio training wrong. When you look at the effect of steady state cardio on your aerobic system, overall health and impact on body fat it is a wonder why anyone still jogs. I will be as direct as possible by saying, never use high volumes of jogging to improve body shape. A study from the Journal of Physiology in 2006 found that aerobic and health improvement from 8-12 sets of 60 second sprints gave far greater aerobic and health improvements compared to that of the endurance training group training almost 98 per cent more. If you use jogging as your exercise of choice then this is one depressing statement. The most effective way to strip body fat with cardio exercise is through High Intensity Training (HIT).
For the next two weeks try this routine: 5 – 7 x 30 second sprints with 90 second recovery periods six times per week for two weeks. A paper published in 2005 in the Journal of Applied Physiology saw participants double their endurance capacity and significantly reduce body fat percentage using this routine.
- Shape Your Torso With Big Lifts
If you are an experienced gym goer, the best way for you to achieve the fastest advancements in your abdominals will be from big lifts like squats and deadlifts. This is due to the shear volume of physiological and neurological demands on the body when you perform big lifts. The abdominals have to work very hard and in a much more functional way than if you were to perform an isolated tummy exercise like a plank or a sit up.
However, if you are new to lifting weights there are a few steps you need to go through before you get to the ‘big lift’ stage. The reason you need to take these steps before diving into big heavy lifts is because you need to master both the lifting technique and trunk stability to cope with lifting big. Here is a really simple self test to determine if your trunk stability could cope with big lifts.
Plank 60 seconds
Rest 30 seconds
Plank 60 seconds
Rest 30 seconds
Plank 60 seconds
If you can successfully complete this test within these desired time intervals with perfect form and no pain, you have enough trunk stability to start progressing with big lifts. The message here is on BIG. In order to maximise the training effect when it comes to weight lifting you must ‘go big or go home’.
- Tight Torso’s Are Made In The Bedroom
No I’m not referring to that… I’m referring to sleep! One of the biggest reasons why people can’t burn body fat on their tummy is down to the stress hormone, cortisol, often referred to as the bodies fat storing hormone. One of the most effective ways to do this is by sleeping between 10pm and not waking until 6 – 9am. Here are three relatively simple tactics to ensure a better nights sleep:
- Remove all exposure to electrical devices two hours before bed – no TV, phones or computers. Try reading, drawing, walking or even meditating to relax before bed.
- Fit blackout curtains. Even the smallest amount of light can be detected by your retina through your closed eyelids influencing the way you sleep.
- Take magnesium before bed. Magnesium is my number one most important mineral for most people to consume. Almost 100 per cent of people are deficient in this mineral and it can help relax and calm the body. The best form for sleep is ‘Magnesium Orotate’ best consumed via the skin either through a spray or salt baths.
- Don’t consume any stimulates after 2pm. That includes coffee, alcohol, drugs, fizzy drinks
- Top 5 Ab Exercises: Deadlifts, Squats, Chins, OverHead Squats, Cleans
By far the most effective way to condition your ab’s is through these five lifts. However, as discussed above, you must go through a series of trunk stabilisation and technique work before you get to benefit from these powerful movements. Not only will these lifts have you tightening your belt one notch, research shows that deadlifting (75 per cent 1 Rep Max) combined with multi joint movements like lunges, chin ups and step ups significantly reduces back pain.
The big message here is if you want to get a flat tummy you have to look beyond sit ups and other direct abdominal exercises. The key to a toned torso is to strip body fat with good food, reduced stress and a focus on strengthening your trunk stability so you can train your body through bigger, more effective lifting movements.
Matt is a BSc (Hons) exercise and health science graduate, ex British athlete and founding owner of www.FITISM.co.uk. Matt and his team of Trainers and Nutritionists work with hundreds of people every week throughout his FITISM studios to make body transformation possible. He is a big fan of taking the complexity out of nutrition and exercise by deconstructing the science to offer highly effective yet simple strategies and tactics to have the biggest impact on body shape in the shortest amount of time.