The stomach has often been defined as the most problematic areas on a person's body and everyone seems to be obsessed with flattening it. It is not so easy to flatten a stomach. Most of the time, those who cannot flatten the stomach as quickly as desired end up buying the latest tummy flattening devices with the fond hope that these will eventually trim the stomach muscles quicker.
Flat stomach calls for a lot of grit, determination, regular exercise and an effective change in eating habits. Check out flat stomach exercises that can give you a stomach to be proud of.
Stomach exercises are aimed at burning the fat from the stomach and achieving a toned belly. Food intake with reduced calories enables the body to develop into a fat burning mode and reduce fat around the stomach gradually. The caution here is not to reduce too many calories so as to cause a weight loss plateau. This tends to lower the metabolic rate eventually resulting in weight gain.
Aerobic exercises also help to burn fat cells directly from the stomach. A toned stomach can be achieved using exercises that place direct stress on the stomach muscles. The stomach muscles react to exercise the same way as other muscles in the body. An exercise that forces the stomach to tone up by contracting it a little harder each time the workout is done. However, exercises should always be learnt and done under expert professional supervision with the prior advice of a medical practitioner.
Myths about stomach exercises
Fitness magazines, TV advertisements about latest machines and even gyms opine that just by doing some midsection exercises and crunches, the accumulated fat in the stomach including love handles cannot be 'spot reduced'. This is a myth and is the root cause of fat loss and fitness failures. The fact is that one cannot reduce the fat from the midsection area just by using exercise alone. The only proper way to lose fat is proportionately from the entire body by burning more calories than one consumes.
Unfortunately many people are of the opinion that they can eat whatever they want and still get a flat stomach by performing about 250 crunches per day. Another myth about stomach flattening is that a lot of 'crunches' will flatten stomach. Overuse of crunches will only shorten ones' abdomen and end up giving the person a bad posture. Instead any standing exercise that will contract the abdomen and specifically targeting the lower back and strengthening the muscles supporting the spine should be the right choice.
Postural guidelines for stomach exercises
Proper postural alignment has to be maintained while exercising to flatten the stomach. Otherwise the workout's effectiveness will be substantially decreased and there may be likelihood of injury.
- During the exercise, the head should always be horizontal to the ground over the shoulders.
- Abs can be tightened by pulling the belly button to your spine.
- Knees should be aligned with second and third toes.
- Always lie with your feet spaced comfortably apart, usually hip width.
Flat stomach exercise
Right twist left oblique: Lie flat on the floor with hands behind the neck. The body should be twisted upward toward the right knee. Same time lift the right leg to meet the left elbow. Do as many repetitions as you can comfortably carry out.
Left twist right oblique: Lie flat on the floor with hands behind the neck. The body should be twisted upward toward the left knee. Simultaneously lift the left leg to meet the right elbow.
Reverse crunches: Lie flat on the floor with legs elevated approximately to 6" to 12". Pull both the legs towards the chest while contracting the lower abdomen.
Left side crunches: Lie on your back with legs bent over the left side. Keep the back and shoulders square on the floor. Proceed to lift and crunch on the left. Do as many repetitions as one can comfortably do.
Right side crunches: Lie on your back with legs bent over the right side. Keep the back and shoulders square on the floor. Proceed to life and crunch on the right.
The no-crunch crunch exercise: Lie on the floor with your knees bent and feet firmly on the floor. Lightly place the hands below and to the sides of the belly button. Firmly press two fingers from each hand into the lower abdomen.
Gently draw the lower abdomen towards the floor without moving the pelvis. Raise your chest or hold your breath. As soon as you feel the muscles get tight, stop drawing in the stomach. The muscles underneath your fingers should feel taut. The movement does not require a lot of effort. Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds, breathing normally the entire time. The exercise can be repeated at least 10 times.
Scissor kicks: Lie on the floor. Place your hands under your buttocks. Keep your back pressed against the floor. Raise one leg about 10 inches off the ground and slowly lower it back down. Raise the other leg now off the ground and slowly lower it back down. Try these three times each of atleast ten repetitions.
Pelvic tilts: Lie on the floor with your back pressed against the floor. Bend the knees keeping the feet on the ground. Slowly lift the pelvic section up and hold briefly before lowering slowly back down on the ground. The upper portion of the body should remain on the floor throughout the movement. Three sets of fifteen repetitions of this exercise can be done.
Hanging Frog kicks: With hands set about shoulder width apart, hang your body straight down from a chinning bar. Move only your legs and pull your knees up to your chest, while simultaneously bending your legs completely. Hold this position for a moment then slowly lower to the starting position. Try four sets of ten repetitions of this exercise.
The stomach vacuum exercise: This isometric contraction exercises the abdomen muscles. This exercise comes only with practice but is extremely effective at building abdominal muscle and controlling it. What better way to reduce your waistline!
This abdominal workout begins with exhaling completely. Ensure that your stomach is flat against your torso. The advantage of this stomach exercise is that it can be done during your regular workout session.
Standing towel circle exercise: Stand tall and hold a small towel over head. The towel should be tautly held throughout the exercise. Contract your abs and slowly draw a large wide circle over your head and around your torso with your hands. Return to the original position and reverse the circular direction. Each set should contain atleast 8 - 10 repetitions.
Lying thrusts: Lie on your back with your feet together. Knees should be held in a locked position with arms tucked under the buttocks. Hands, palms down under and head should be kept firmly on the floor as you look up at the ceiling. This exercise may look very simple but it is very challenging in practice. It produces wonderful results if done properly.
Oblique twist with ball: Sit on a ball. Walk feet forward until the ball is resting on your back. Your body is now parallel to the floor. Place hands lightly behind head for support. Using your abdominal muscles, slowly crunch up lifting your shoulder blades off the ball and rotate left shoulder towards right hip. Return to the starting parallel position and repeat. After sufficient number of repetitions, the sides could be switched.
A note of caution
Exercises like front leg raise, stomach tuck-in and waist twists are for starters and easy to do. These exercises prepare you for more intense exercises. Once you are comfortable with these simple exercises, lower abdominal, upper abdominal and other crunches can be tried. Starters should keep their movements slow and must not overexert. Warm up should be done before any serious exercise regimen. A medical practitioner should be consulted before embarking on any exercise schedule.