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Fit to your core

A lean, toned body is many a gym-goer’s dream. Unless you are training to become the next Mr or Mrs Universe, then mostly you will be seeking ripped muscles, a sleek torso and not a hint of flab anywhere.

To achieve this, there are some fundamental do’s and dont’s, which we will take a look at here.

Some Dont’s and some Do’s

The first mistake that people make is working their muscles in isolation. Think bicep curls or tricep kickbacks – they will work those particular muscles hard, but to get significant results you need to perform exercises that stimulate as many muscles as possible at the same time.

So, here are a couple of exercises that will help develop toned muscles in a short time.

Target muscle groups: Quads and hamstrings: Perform a jumping squat, rotating entirely through 180 degrees in the air. Keep rotating in the same direction so you jump left, then right. After one set of 10-15 jumps, change your direction of rotation and repeat. Maintain good form and balance for each jump, sinking low on landing and exploding on the jump.

Target muscle groups: Biceps, triceps, pectorals and deltoids: Chin-ups to failure – When was the last time you did a full set of chin-ups to failure? If you have, then you are likely to be familiar with the ache in your biceps the next day. This exercise stimulates a whole range of muscles in your upper arm, shoulders and back. Grip a pull-up bar underhand with your palms six inches apart and, starting from a dead hang. Pull yourself up until your upper-chest comes in contact with the bar. Pause for a full second and the top, and lower yourself slowly until your arms become totally straight. Repeat until failure.

A second mistake that people make when seeking a lean body is to just keep running. Mile after mile of pavement pounding is a lot of effort to shift pounds. Any run longer than 10k is really only suitable for people training for long distance running events.

The science is complicated and there is not room here to deal with it, but the bottom line is that your body is an efficient machine and, while you might lose weight in the first few weeks of running, your body will soon adjust so you are running more efficiently – and that means using less energy. Fitness guru Adam Bornstein explains this comprehensively in his post on the Huffington Post website.

The answer?

Mix it up. Add some speed sessions to your run, throw in a hill sprint or five or run up and down a set of steps. The trick is to convince your body that it needs to work harder, that way you will expend more calories and shift weight.

The third mistake is all to do with the six pack. We all think of a ripped abdominal area as the blue riband result of a great fitness regime. Therefore, we should do loads of crunchies, right?

Wrong! The abdominals are a complex group of muscles that move and work in different ways. If you are moving in just one direction – ie flexing the trunk in an up and down motion – then you will be working only an isolated part of your abdominals.

You should incorporate a range of movement into your work out. At the very least consider exercises involving trunk flexion, hip flexion, rotations and lateral flexion, these will cover the upper abs, the lower abs and the obliques.

Timing your exercise programme

And think about when you exercise your abdominals. Traditionally, we leave the ab work until last, but why? There is an argument that if you work your core first, you will not perform any other exercises effectively, but surely if you always exercise your core last, it will never get an effective work out.

A final point on the abdominals. Athlete Jessica Ennis-Hill one said that she never works her core in isolation. Anyone watching the Olympic and World Champion in action will testify that she has an enviable six pack. Her training regime has produced that, but it is through all the other actions – running, jumping, throwing – that she has developed her core.

The key message is a varied fitness regime that uses a wide range of muscles, moving in a variety of directions is the most effective way to a sleek, toned body.