Stomach fat can sometimes seem impossible to get rid of when you’re losing weight. It always feels as though it is hanging on for dear life, even during the most rigorous ex- ercises! When you first begin exercising, you’ll start to notice significant changes with- in the first few months – slimmer face, more defined shoulders and a less flabby back. But stomach fat can be stubborn!
The best tip you’ll get is to stay positive and keep at it! Do a combination of aerobic workouts and ‘muscle’, or strength training workouts using weights, as similarly to food, variety is vital when exercising. Many people are afraid that working out their muscles might make them “bulky”, but in reality, building muscle can give the appear- ance of being thinner, especially in the stomach area, and toning muscle helps keep the body looking tight and firm.
Further to this, doing only cardio exercise is not a good plan for losing weight. Spend- ing hours and hours on a treadmill is a real waste of your energy when strength train– ing can get you results much more quickly. Plus, muscle burns more calories than fat (2). What this means, is that even as you sleep, simply having a more muscular body will mean you’re burning more calories.
All of this doesn’t mean you have to take out an expensive gym membership, though. There are plenty of exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home, with no need for any equipment!
The Home Workout
The following exercises not only burn fat but can help tone muscle too, which is really important for sculpting your ideal body.
————— The Crunch —————
The crunch is so simple to do and still proves to be more effective than most of the fancy ab workout devices or DVDs being sold to people these days.
To start off, lay on your back with your knees up and your feet flat on the ground. For an extra challenge, you can have the bottoms of your feet facing each other with your knees out to the side (as shown in the picture above), but if you are just starting out, stick to keeping your feet flat on the ground.
While laying flat on your back, flex your ab muscles and lift the upper half of your torso as high off of the ground as possible, keeping a straight back. Hold this position for one full second and slowly lower yourself back down to the ground. It should take three seconds in total to complete one repetition, one second going up, holding for one second, and one second going down. Perform at least ten repetitions per set.
Your hand position in this exercise isn’t that important, as long as you are feeling tension in your abs. You can have your arms at your sides, or you can cross them over your chest or cup your ears for an extra challenge, just don’t “pull” your head up with your hands!
————— The Plank —————
The plank is unique because it is an isometric exercise, which means that it is an exer-cise where you are not moving or performing repetitions. Several studies have found isometric exercises to be as effective as they are because they raise the temperature of deep muscle tissue (3).
To make sure you’re getting the most out of your plank, place your elbows under the shoulders, and hold your core tight like you’re bracing for a punch. Be sure your body is in a straight line from the back of your head to your heels – don’t let your hips or shoulders drop! Hold this position for 20-30 seconds, increasing your time as you progress over the weeks.
To add some variation to this exercise, go on one elbow and turn your body to the side, keeping your hips facing the ground. This will work out your obliques (what most peo-ple refer to as love handles) and will tone the side of your belly as well as the front. If you want to add this variation, dedicate 10 seconds of your 30-second plank to each side, with the remaining 10 seconds being spent on the original position.
————— Scissors —————
This is one of the more complicated moves, but it’s a great combination of cardio and muscle building.
Lie on your back with your hands cupping the back of your head. Flexing your abs, bring your left knee up and twist your torso forwards and across so that the knee touches your right elbow, and then alternate with your right knee touching your left elbow. Your legs should look like they are performing a cycling motion, similar to riding a bike.
Once you have done both sides, count one rep, and aim to complete 10-15 reps.
————— The Routine —————
Perform all of these exercises consecutively, at around 30 seconds each, which should take 90 seconds in total. Rest for 30 seconds and repeat at least five or six more times, or until you can’t do the exercises with correct form any longer.
Don’t be discouraged if you need to take longer rest periods after the first cycle or two, a 30 second rest period is just a recommendation, and you can take up to a minute long break depending on your fitness level. Remember, you want to push yourself, but overexerting your body can have a negative effect on your fat loss goals. Over time, work to reduce your resting periods.
This routine can take as little as 10 minutes. This may seem too short to provide any noticeable improvements; however, it is a high-intensity exercise, which many studies have proven to be more effective at burning fat than long, drawn out endurance exer- cises.
Take up Pilates
If crunches aren’t cutting it, Pilates will certainly up your tummy toning game. Sit-ups and crunches only target the outermost ab muscles, the rectus abdominis. Whereas Pilates moves work the external obliques, erector spinae, and the transversus abdominis. That last muscle is what keeps the stomach in tight.
By working muscles that are deep down in the body, you will start to notice improved core strength as well as tighter-looking muscles. A strong transversus will act kind of like a corset, helping protect against back pain, but also making your stomach appear leaner and flatter. No amount of crunches can do that (1)!
Most gyms will have classes available, and they are well worth attending. Even if you feel slightly shy at first, being in a fitness class environment can have really positive effects on your workout, as you push yourself further than you might alone and start to feel part of a community of people with a shared goal.
- 2 Pilates Moves for Stronger Abs. SparkPeople. 2016. Available at: http://www.sparkpeople.com/blog/blog.asp?post=2_ pilates_moves_for_a_flatter_belly . Accessed August 29, 2016.
- Mack SMack S. Is It a Myth That Muscle Burns More Calories Than Fat?. LIVES- TRONG.CO 2016. Available at: http://www.livestrong.com/article/447243-is-it-a– myth-that-muscle-burns-more-calories-than-fat/. Accessed August 31, 2016.
- AR P. The relationship of body fat content to deep muscle temperature and isomet- ric endurance in man. – PubMed – NCB Ncbinlmnih.gov. 2016. Available at: http:// www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1126131. Accessed August 31, 2016.