Watching the Olympic Games over the weekend, we were in absolute awe of Team GB’s Jessica Ennis. Understandably so; as the poster girl of the London Olympics, heptathlete Ennis had a huge weight of pressure on her, but she more than delivered storming to victory in the final round to take the Olympic gold medal over 300 points clear of her nearest rival.
Even as a casual spectator, it was clear to see that Ennis has guts – in both senses of the word. Besides talent, dedication and a gritty determination to win, Ennis is also in possession of a seriously enviable set of abs.
While Jess Ennis is more than just the sum of her body parts, it turns out her ripped abdominal muscles are in fact a key factor in her success.
“She must be able to sprint, throw, jump and run middle distance,” says Tom Eastham, personal trainer and fitness manager for Fitness First, Tottenham Court Road. “Therefore, in all of her disciplines she needs a strong core, i.e. her abs and inner core muscles are switching on whenever she needs to call upon them.”
“Having a strong core enables her to call upon her strength and power when she is at full speed about to jump into a pit of sand or jump over a high bar. Without it she would be disconnected and much weaker,” explains Eastham.
Although our middle distance run for the bus barely needs Ennis’ phenomenal level of strength and power, a strong core means better posture and a lower risk of back injury, as well as that Holy Grail - the flat stomach. So what would mere mortals like us need to do in order to achieve Jess’ hardcore abs?
“Ennis is a multi-talented athlete. To look like her you must train like her,” says Eastham. He suggests any exercise engaging the core when standing, such as TRX, ViPR, kettlebells or cable machines. “They will give you a much stronger core than anything performed lying down, because the main function of your core is to switch on when you move. Movements performed in a press up or plank positions are also very useful, such as mountain climbers, walking planks or plank with rotations.” Disciplines such as ballet, yoga and pilates are also great for strengthening the core as well as working the whole body.
Top 5 exercises to get envy-inducing abs
We asked independent personal trainer and massage therapist Jarod Chapman for his top abdominal exercises to help you sculpt your own envy-inducing abs...
1) Running is the best ab workout as you use all of your body. Your cardiovascular system loves it and those calories burnt will strip away at excess abdominal fat. It takes approximately 20 minutes of running for the fat stores to be utilised as energy, so the longer your run, the more body fat you burn off.
2) Skip rope for 10-30 minutes, for pure core strengthening and cardio strengthening too! Spin class is also a wonderful fat burner and abdominal revealing exercise technique.
3) Walking lunges with rotations works the lower body and the obliques (external stomach muscles) As you step into the forward lunge hold your arms out in front of you with hands clasped and rotate your arms over the forward lunged knee, 5 x 20 with 1 minute rest between sets.
4) Deep squat leap frogs work the legs, bum and thighs whilst raising the heart rate. Try 1 minute leap frog with 1 minute rest and repeat 5 times.
5) Repeat the following circuit 3-5 times in a fluid motion moving from one exercise to the next. Rest 1 minute between sets...
- 10 supine rotations of laying on the back bend the knees and slowly lower the knees to the side onto the floor, pull back to centre and rotate to the other side.
- Flip over and stationary plank, elbows support the shoulders, focus the breath and pull the navel toward the spine as the glutes are squeezed, hold for 30 sec - 2 minutes.
- Classic abdominal crunch/pulses
- Laying supine, knees bent, clasp hands together between the legs, lift shoulders off floor and pulse 20-60 reps.
Tom Eastham is a Personal Trainer and Fitness Manager at Fitness First Tottenham Court Road, London. Tom designed Athletic Fitness, the newest Fitness First class - find out more at fitnessfirst.co.uk
Image credit: Rex