How Can I Tone Up My Abs and Lose this Belly Fat?
I have been in the fitness business for over 20 years, and the number one question by far has always been, “How can I tone up my abs and lose this belly?” Women always want to know how they can look thinner and get their midsection more toned and defined. It is not just a matter of reshaping the muscles of the core, but also burning the fat and fighting the bloat that blanket your hidden 6-pack! There are no easy answers and no “one size fits all” approach; however, here are three tweaks that can really help shave and tone the midsection quickly, especially for women. Use the tips and the exercises given to carve up a killer core in no time!
Your abdominal region consists of three main groups of muscle. Your rectus abdominis which runs down the middle of your core, the obliques which rest both internally and externally on both sides of your body, and the transverse abdominals which are like two hands holding everything in. (You actually work these just by standing up straight and holding your abs tight while doing daily activities.) Your lower back muscles are also part of the core muscles that hold everything together, and it is very easy to hit these with many moves that are traditionally thought of as “abdominal” exercises. It is so important to keep your core strong and limber, as this is what supports our entire body. Think of your core as the motherboard; if you don’t have this all important piece, nothing else is going to function properly.
The best ab workouts consist of a variety of movements, both strength-based as well as cardiovascular, so that you are not only building new svelte muscles but also burning the fat that lies on top. It takes both types of activity to achieve that cut and defined look that we all desire. Using a variety of 4 or 5 different abdominal moves can give you a great toning workout in less than 10 minutes. Adding 10 minutes of cardiovascular activity, especially interval training, will begin to burn that extra layer of pudge over top of those lean machines waiting for their debut. Let’s first discuss the five best abdominal toning moves that any level of exerciser can do!
The Top 3 Midsection Fixes for Women to Lose Belly Fat
Toning, strengthening, and burning fat off your abdominal muscles will require that you perform the right exercises. Do these core exercises in the same order for sets of 10, and do 1-2 sets. For the more intermediate exerciser, do 20 reps and do 2-3 sets. Try doing this workout 2-3 days a week at the end of your cardio workout or strength training sets. Rest a minute or two in between each move if you are a beginner, but try to take these rest periods out as you become stronger and more adept.
Lay down on the floor or a mat with your feet flat on the floor. Place your hands behind your head with your thumbs behind your ears; this makes sort of a hammock for your head. Keeping your chin off of your chest and looking up towards the ceiling, lift your chest up. Your ribs and pelvis meet in the middle for the “crunch”. Shoulder blades will come off of the mat an inch or two, but not much higher. Remember, this is a crunch, not a full sit-up, so you are only coming up a few inches to get the muscles to engage.
Starting in the same position as the crunch, lift your feet up so that your legs are at a 90 degree angle. Begin to “peddle” your legs up towards your chest by alternating them just like you would do when riding a bike. At the same time bringing the opposite arm up towards the leg as you crunch. Continue this until you have completed the amount of reps that you desire on each side.* Remember, you still need to be looking up towards the ceiling and keep your chin off of your chest. Pulling on the neck and scrunching inward is the biggest reason for neck pain when doing crunches.
Lay on your back and stretch all the way out so your legs are straight. You can place your hands under your lower back if you need support, place a pillow underneath, or simply leave your hands by your sides. Keep the knees slightly bent and raise up both legs at the same time. The more you bend the knees, the easier the move will be and the less work your back will need to do. Therefore, choose how difficult you want to make these leg lifts and bend the knees accordingly.
The powerhouse of all ab moves! The plank works your entire core in one fell swoop! Turn over onto your stomach and raise up onto your forearms and toes. Try to keep the back as straight as possible and think of yourself as, well, a plank! You can rest if you need to by bringing the knees down to the floor for a few seconds. Keep your eyes focused about 5 or 6 inches in front of you and keep your neck in line with your spine. Hold for 10, 20, 30 seconds or more. For this workout, you might start by holding for 10 seconds to stay in line with your 10 reps for the other moves. If you are intermediate, you might be doing 20 seconds etc…
Similar to the prone plank, this one focuses a little more on the obliques, or waistline. We are going to add a little movement to this one! Leaning on your forearm, come up to one side of the body. Keep the top leg straight and the bottom leg slightly bent; cross one foot over the other in order to remain balanced. Drop your hip to touch the floor and then come back up to the side plank position. Make sure to keep your body straight and not lean forward or back. Repeat your repetitions on the other side.
Now, the ultimate calorie –torching workout!
#2. Interval Training!
Hour-long aerobics classes are becoming a thing of the past! Interval training is not a new concept; the idea of interspersing moments of high intensity bursts of power with lower level recovery periods has been studied and utilized for decades. It has been shown to burn 30% more calories in a shorter period of time than steady state exercise and revs up a person’s metabolism for up to 12 hours post workout! Shorter workouts, more calories burned; it is simply a win/win however you slice it! With “no time” being the number one excuse of individuals who do not exercise, interval training is a viable option both at home and in the gym. With as little as 10 minutes, you can carve out a sweat-fest workout and torch a ton of calories. Interval training is a perfect addition to your fab ab plan, so here is an example of how you can get started!
Add interval training 2-3 times a week and create a workout that is 10, 15 or 20 minutes in length. The more intense you make your power bursts, the shorter your workout should be, especially for beginners. Here, I will show you a mid-level interval plan by doing a 30/30 split. Thirty seconds of high intensity to thirty seconds of rest. Here are the moves:
- Mock Jump Rope
- High Knee Jog
- Jumping Jacks
- Fast Jabs
- Squat Jump
Repeat all of these moves twice, and you will have a high intensity 10-minute calorie burner that will begin to take that layer of flab off of your newly toned abdominal muscles!
Nutrition plays a big part in flat abs as well! May times women feel bloated or “thick” during certain times of the month or after eating certain meals. Some tips that can help fight the puffiness and bloat are:
Sip lemon water throughout the day. The more water your body has going through it, the more it will release what it is holding in reserve. Lemons are a natural diuretic, so adding this to your water will help to release any stubborn water retention that you might be experiencing. Not only is it refreshing and hydrating for your body, it aides in digestion and cleanses the system. Lemons are also known to curb the appetite!
Get your fill of fiber with plenty of fruits and veggies! If your diet consists of mostly fruit and veggies, you are less likely to get bloated and feel that “thick around the middle” feeling. Pineapple and parsley are two of the most well-known bloat busters. Keep in mind that some veggies produce a little more gas, especially broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage.
Highly processed foods tend to be high in sodium and low in fiber, both of which can contribute to becoming bloated. Get in the habit of reading food labels; food choices should have no more than 500 mg of sodium per serving, with a total of only 1,500 to 2,300 mg of sodium per day.
Try probiotics! Whether you are using an over-the-counter supplement or eating specialty yogurt that had added probiotics, these can really help to clear out your intestinal track from unwanted bacteria that can cause gas and bloating. When used appropriately, probiotics (good bacteria) can really help to deflate a bloated stomach!
The Bottom Line
So, there you have it ladies! Work your core with focused muscle-toning exercises, try interval training to torch calories and burn the fat overlying those muscles, and tweak your diet a little to combat bloat and puffiness. By incorporating these tactics and using your new workouts 2-3 times a week, you will have fab abs in no time and that “want to be” six-pack will be peeking out before you know it! Have fun!