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Tighten Your Abs With This Simple 20-minute Workout for Swimmers

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Aesthetically, a flat stomach is on everyones physical fitness wish list. But as we get older, a drum-tight set of abs (also known as a "six-pack") becomes more elusive as gravity and age take their inevitable toll.

However, often overlooked in the quest for a washboard stomach are the athletic — not aesthetic — benefits of having a set of strong stomach muscles.

Swimmers especially can benefit from conditioned abdominals (even if their stomach doesn’t look quite like Sylvester Stallone's or Janet Jackson's), considering that they are required to execute flip turns every 25 or 50 meters.

Flip turns require the rapid contraction of stomach muscles that tuck the body into a ball for maximum hydrodynamic efficiency during the turn. In addition, strong stomach muscles help keep the body positioned in the water properly, especially in backstroke and when pushing off the wall in a streamline position.

This simple 20-minute ab-strengthening workout not only helps tone and define what lies beneath that layer of skin that seems to get thicker with each passing holiday season, but it also works to make the aforementioned improvements in overall swimming performance.

ABDOMINAL WORKOUT FOR SWIMMERS

  • Approx. 20 minutes
  • 200 sit-ups
  • 60 push-ups

Warm-up
Warm up with some light stretching, preferably on a cushioned yoga mat (common ones found in gyms are about an inch thick and made of styrofoam). To stretch out your stomach muscles, lie face down on the mat and prepare to do a push-up with your hands placed as close to your armpits as possible. Push your upper body up off the ground, leaving your hips and legs flat on the ground. This is known as a "seal press." Feel the stretch in your stomach, slowly tilting your head back towards the sky for added abdominal elongation.

50 'regular' sit-ups
Lying on your back, raise your knees off the ground about 12 inches so that the small of your back is flush with the ground and place your hands behind your head. Slowly raise your head toward your knees, making sure not to pull your head up with your hands (your hands and arms are there to add weight to the upper half of your body so that your abs have more mass to lift. They are not there for support). When you curl upward as far as you can go, ease back down to a resting position.

Take care not to relax your stomach on the down-side of the sit-up too quickly — the most effective part of the sit-up is actually this down-side, not the up-curl.

15 push-ups
After the first set of sit-ups, flip over on your stomach, execute a brief seal press to stretch out your abs, and go right into 15 push-ups, slowly and methodically. Picture your body as a rigid plank, making sure not to bounce your head or only "push up" the top half of your body rather, raise your entire body from toes to head. Keep your abs tight and controlled as you execute the push-ups they should burn even though this set serves as a break between sit-ups. Finish with another brief seal press.

50 'left/right sit-ups
These are just like "regular" sit-ups, only instead of bringing your head straight up with each repetition, you are alternating bringing your right elbow towards your left knee, and your left elbow towards your right knee.

15 push-ups

50 'chair-lift' sit-ups
These are great sit-ups for developing the oft-neglected upper abs. Most sit-ups tighten the lower four-pack of muscles, while this type of exercise places more emphasis on the upper four muscles in the abdominal region.

Lying on your back, lift your legs off the ground in a 90-degree angle as if you are sitting in a chair (only the chair is flat on its back). Again, placing your hands behind your head, slowly raise your head straight up toward the ceiling (unlike the previous sets, do not curl your head toward your knees, but rather reach your head up toward the sky, directly above you). If you do this correctly, it will feel different than the previous sit-ups, because you are working a different set of abdominal muscles.

15 push-ups

50 'bicycle' sit-ups
"Bicycles" are not exactly sit-ups, but they work the abdominals just as well, if not better, than traditional stomach curls. It is important to do these correctly, in a slow and controlled repetitive motion, to get the most out of the exercise.

Lying on your back, bring your feet up off the ground as if you are beginning a set of chair-lifts. With your hands behind your head, bring your left elbow toward your right knee and then your right elbow towards your left knee, while constantly moving your legs in a "cycling" motion.

Rather than a series of repetitive motions like the previous sets of sit-ups, "bicycles" are a smooth, continuous motion as you "cycle" your legs while twisting your spine left-to-right, alternating elbows-to-knees. Count 50 controlled rotations, then relax. Or you can time yourself for a minute, executing the motion slowly and methodically. This is the hardest abdominal drill, which is why it is last in the workout.

End with:

15 push-ups

Upon completion of this dry-land set, your stomach muscles should be burning and an overall tightness in your abdominals will be apparent. With the holidays looming and workout time scarce, this simple set of drills can be done anywhere, anytime. On a hotel room floor in the morning before your shower, or prior to a scheduled workout, for example.

It only takes 20 minutes, but consistently doing this short workout every other day is a great way to strengthen these oft-neglected stomach muscles.

The result will be better form in the pool and a leaner post-holiday waistline. Who wouldn't want that?

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