Throughout my career as a trainer, I have come across probably about 15, 001 people who tell me they’re not happy with their mid section. I also come across the same 15, 001 people who do countless sit-ups and “waste” way too much time trying to exercise away their flabby, not so perfect tummies. Let me let you in on a little secret…”IT DOES NOT WORK!” Please stop wasting countless hours on your bedroom floor or in the gym. Dreaming about a flat stomach and tiny waist also doesn’t work. What does work is a combination of clean eating, moderating alcohol & fat and the correct tummy cinching exercises.
The mid-section responds very well to a moderated diet (i.e you don’t eat and drink crap!) and a combination of high intensity interval training (HIIT) things like running, skipping, marital arts, hill sprints and medium to heavy resistance training (lifting weights, performing lunges, squats, rotational and posture correction exercises). You do not get flat abs from doing 500 crunches a day. You do however get flat abs by correcting the way you move and the type of foods you eat. The most effective ab exercises are in place to strengthen and make the most of what you already have. Genes also play a major role in the flatness of our tums, some people are just born with enviable flat stomachs (kill them all…groan!)
For us mere mortals, what do we need to eat to get a fabulously flat stomach?
It is best to munch regularly on protein and nutrient rich foods- Plant and animal proteins, seeds, nuts, fruit and veg, good quality oils- virgin coconut oil or olive, whole grains (in moderation) – this is “Clean Eating” at its best. The food to stay well clear of is processed nutrient void foods such as: SUGAR, white bread, white flour, hydrogenated fats or trans fat (these are really evil and are found in margarine, some cooking oils- basically its a manufactured/tampered with product that makes people FAT! They are linked to diabetes and heart disease) STAY AWAY. Also limit your alcohol consumption if you want to see your abs. Keep your drinks under 4-6 standard drinks per week.
So now that I know what to eat, what are those “effective exercises” you speak of….?
Home Based or Anywhere Exercises:
The plank: A great, easy, equipment free exercise. This re-trains your muscles to hold your stomach in and will have you in that mini dress in no time. Start on your elbows then push yourself up onto your toes. You’ll be in a flat, body position with your pelvis tucked under, no butt sticking up and out. Really try to draw your navel into your spine. If you find it hard with straight legs try bending at the knees and then progress when you feel ready. Try to hold it for 30 secs and repeat 3 times. As you become more competent try 45secs, then into 1 min. Feel the burn!
Reverse crunch: Great for building strength in the lower section of your stomach and making that little “pooch” at the bottom of your stomach disappear. Lie on your back, palms facing up, draw your navel to your spine and roll your butt off the floor in a crunching upwards motion. Slowly lower your lower half back to the mat. Try 15 of these and repeat for 3 rounds.
Hip Extension: Unfortunately you can’t request your body to lose certain areas of fat, like your tummy, so it’s always a good idea to target all areas of the body in your work out. This next exercise is going to strengthen and tone the booty but it also targets the mid section, lower back and back of the thigh. Lie down on your back, one leg fully extended, the other place bent on the ground. Push through your heel and lift your butt off the floor. Hold for 3 secs and slowly lower down just before your butt touches the floor raise it up again.
Swiss Ball Mountain Climbers: I love this exercise and my clients know I do too. You don’t have to use the ball if you don’t feel ready (the ball creates instability causing your tummy to work harder to stabilise you- so do it when you need to make the exercise harder). Hands on the ground (or ball), draw navel to spine and move knees in and out changing legs each time. Try 20 first for 3 rounds, then increase volume as you get stronger.
Hanging Knee Raises: Never under estimate the power of the body! Again a great exercise for the lower abs, use a bar to hang off (use the pull up bar, monkey bars or anything similar to that). Draw your navel into the spine and raise both feet, then knees together, until the knees reach the lower tummy. Slowly lower down and repeat. 10 x 3 is your goal here.
Medicine Ball Twists: Select a medicine ball (or dumbbell) appropriate for your level (beginners 3kg, intermediate 5kg-8kg, advanced 8kg+) Sit tall on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor and draw your navel to the spine. Whilst still engaging your navel to the spine twist your torso only to the left, back to center, then to the right. The movement is slow and focused on those love handles (obliques). Repeat a total of 20 repeats, 3 times through.
You’ll be sporting that high-waisted skirt and cinched in belt combo, that we all love for winter, in no time. Say no to hibernation this winter and yes to planks and mountain climbers.