“Mister Abs” tells all. (Photo: Thaddeus Harden Photography)
Having a perfectly toned tummy — complete with a six-pack — is something pretty much everyone wants. And it’s the job of Levi James, a.k.a, Mister Abs, to help you get one.
With nearly 20 years of training experience, James has developed a reputation for his washboard abs. The 41-year-old is also known for his creative and intense workout classes, and is a trainer at the New York Health & Racquet Club in New York City. James spilled the secrets to his own success with Yahoo Health — including the right tummy-sculpting exercise routine, his go-to foods, and the little-talked-about secret to getting an enviable midsection.
Stick To An Abs-Friendly Diet
“I always say, ‘Great abs start in the kitchen,” says James. “Starting in the kitchen is key because that’s where most people compromise and fail.” If your goal is to get lean and toned, then your meal plan should reflect that fitness goal. James cooks a variety of protein-rich foods, such as chicken, fish, eggs, lean beef, and pork — and doesn’t consider carbs off-limits. “I eat oatmeal, whole grains, brown rice/quinoa, potatoes, [and] whole-grain and vegetable pasta,” he says, making sure to avoid processed foods.
James’s go-to meals include grilled chicken with broccoli and asparagus (top LH corner); salad with romaine lettuce, carrots, strawberries, and mushrooms (top RH corner); grilled salmon with mushrooms and broccoli (bottom LH corner); and salad with romaine lettuce, apples, cherry tomatoes, orange peppers, and balsamic vinaigrette (bottom RH corner). (Photos: Courtesy of Levi James)
He also fills his diet with vegetables including peppers, onions, squash, mushrooms, asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and spinach. “I generally like to eat lean and green, and that means lean protein and green leafy vegetables will dominate my plate,” says James. “My low-glycemic carbohydrates are about 25 percent of my meal. I may increase or decrease that depending on what my activities will be.”
Eat More To Lose More
To keep up with your workouts and maintain a good metabolism, James says it’s important not to skip meals. “I give a three-hour interval between alternating meals and snacks,” says James. “That’s eating roughly five to six times a day.” Some Mr. Abs-approved snacks include hummus, fruit, yogurt, nuts, and whole-grain cereals. He also makes salads that he stores in mason jars. ”I keep the dressing basic, like a balsamic vinaigrette,” says James, and also adds some fruit for additional flavor.
Related: The 9 Best Flat-Belly Superfoods
Work Out Your Whole Body
“After you start in the kitchen, your next step is the actual exercise,” says James. “The key to good ab work is exercise selection. The focus needs to be on increased intensity and variety.” While it would be nice if it were possible to spot-reduce or tone the midsection, James says this is impossible because the body needs to burn fat overall to be able to see the ab muscles in the first place.
According to James, the workout secret to a great midsection is to not do ab exercises exclusively. (Photo: Thaddeus Harden Photography)
In reality, your abdominals are part of a larger group of core muscles including the obliques, lower back, and hips. Increasing exercise intensity when you’re working out these muscles will increase your core strength and power, he says. What ab work can do is “increase the size of your muscles in that targeted area,” says James. “And with the proper meal planning and fat-burning activity, your toned, defined abs won’t be hidden behind a layer of fat.”
“Variety is the other key exercise component,” says James. It’s important to move through all three planes of motion in order to engage a variety of muscles in the torso. The first, flexion/extension, involves increasing and decreasing an angle in your body; an example of a flexion/extension exercise is the towel pike exercise. The second, rotation, involves moving your body in a twisting motion; a Russian twist is a good way to accomplish this. The third is the lateral flexion, which involves bending sideways at the waist — a side plank squeeze fulfills this type of movement.
It’s also effective to add diagonal (multiple plane) exercises, which are moves that combine two planes of motion. “You need exercises that don’t repeat the same motion of the body,” says James, who tries to keep things varied in his own ab workouts by also incorporating different equipment and intensities.
Don’t Do Ab Workouts Every Day
Each day is a different workout for James. In fact, only three to four days are spent doing concentrated ab work. “My week is varied with different exercises working different muscles,” he says. “I do a lot of high-intensity interval training a few days a week. Then I do heavy lifting with body weight circuits, and do calisthenics and balance work as well.”
Don’t Forget The Rest
As much as the secret to picture-perfect abs is the right diet and exercise, there’s one other piece of the puzzle that’s often overlooked, but just as important: Adequate sleep. “Your muscles need recovery time to function effectively,” James says — plus, proper sleep is vital to keeping low levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that has been linked in studies to weight gain.
Along with regular sleep, James also advises scheduling an “off day” during the week, where you take a break from exercise. And if your body feels like you need an off day before it’s scheduled, then take it. “Get a massage, stretch, or take a yoga class,” he says. ”It’s hard to stay positive while pursuing your fitness goals without adequate sleep and rest.”
Source: Yahoo news