As a trainer for women, I hear similar goals, and one of the most common is for flat abs – getting rid of “belly pooch” so to speak. Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions in achieving a flat stomach. Here are some secrets behind abs for women and a strong core in general.
– First, core must be defined. The muscles that compromise the core are not merely your abdominal muscles. Yes, it certainly includes your transverse and rectus abdominus – the stomach muscles from your sternum to waist – but it also includes muscles of your back (lats), sides (obliques) and even your legs (hip abductors and adductors, glutes and hamstrings).
– High intensity interval training is your friend. An exercise technique in which you give maximum effort for a short burst, followed by short, sometimes active recovery periods – this type of training is more efficient because it increases your heart rate and your body’s need for oxygen during the workout itself, but also in the recovery period after exercise, which is known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC). It takes your body longer to return to its normal resting state, and thus you burn more calories and fat than in steady state cardio. That is why I am not a huge fan of longer, consistent cardio sessions. They aren’t necessarily harmful or unproductive, but high intensity is much more efficient (who has time for an hour and a half of exercise, anyway?!), and it will be more effective in taking inches off than just doing a thousand ab workouts.
– Remember your “belly pooch” can be derived from any number of sources…excess, overall fat, excess skin, anterior pelvic tilt and bloat to name a few. Determining the root cause of yours will help you eliminate it:
– Excess, Overall Fat: This is a common reason for many people. Doing an “ab workout” every night is not going to get rid of the fat. Getting rid of fat is first done through consistent, healthy diet in addition to high intensity cardio exercise coupled with strength training. It is so important that you are doing both. You can be exercising night and day, but it is very difficult to compete with what you eat. However, as I stated in the previous point, exercise will aid in speeding up your metabolism and thus the whole process. I often tell people to remember two things…1. Fat loss is 70% diet and 30% exercise and 2. You didn’t choose where the weight went on first, and likewise, you can’t choose where it comes off first.
– Excess Skin: If you have lost a significant amount of weight, first of all, congratulations! However, unfortunately, you may still be carrying excess skin as no amount of exercise and healthy nutrition is going to magically make that disappear. If you so choose, there are cosmetic surgeries that can remove it.
– Anterior Pelvic Tilt: This is when the pelvis rotates forward, placing the front of the pelvic bones well below the level of the back. Looking from the side the butt sticks out and gut protrudes. I like to call it “duck butt”. Many women have this condition, and this is their “default” posture. No matter how muscular you are, if your stomach is completely relaxed, disengaged, your belly will protrude. However, by simply, engaging your abdominus muscles, not only does your stomach flatten out, you also will be strengthening those muscles. In order to achieve this, think about pulling your belly button into your spine and then extending up as if someone is pulling on a string attached to your sternum. Here is an excellent, detailed video explaining the concept.
– Bloat: We have all felt the uncomfortable feeling of bloating, and there are many different causes. Below, I succinctly listed a few common culprits.
o Eating foods that are hard to digest: beans, lentils, sweeteners, dairy, certain fruits and vegetables
o Eating rich and fatty foods
o Water retention
o Activities that increase how much air is swallowed: chewing gum, drinking through a straw, sucking on hard candy, eating too fast
– Doing ab exercises every night is not necessarily going to be the magic for a flat stomach. Yes, you will increase muscle strength, but if you have belly fat, it will not get rid of that. So your circumference might actually increase because you have added muscle, but not removed fat. Moreover, crunches are not necessarily the best core exercise. They can create/exacerbate back/neck issues. Planks are a much better choice. Check out my video for a ton of plank variations.
– Don’t make excuses. Pregnancies, cesarean sections are not reasons to keep you from a flat tummy. Below are some pictures of every day women; they are not fitness models or professionals. The woman on the right has had two pregnancies with natural, vaginal births. The woman on the right has had some vaginal births and some c-sections.
– There isn’t a magical fix. It takes hard work and consistency.
Check out these exercises for not only a great ab workout for women, but overall core strengthening.