As a coach and trainer, I hear this all the time from clients and people setting fitness goals. It’s the #1 thing people want – myself included! Most people figure to get a flat stomach, they need to do a ton of crunches. While crunches will help build muscles and tone flab in your midsection, it takes more than that to get the flat stomach.
First off, you need to understand that you can’t spot lose fat. Everyone is different as to how they lose fat. For women, our midsection is typically the last place we lose weight and fat. I know as a new mom, it’s still my one problem area. So stick with your workouts and eating healthy and you will see change in that area. But don’t expect to just do crunches and nothing else and see results.
Secondly, as my mentor Chalene Johnson says, “Abs are made in the kitchen!” or “The best exercise for your abs is walking…away from the kitchen!” What does that mean? Your nutrition is SUPER important for abs and a flat tummy! In fact, I think it’s the most important thing! So you can’t exercise and eat like crap. Here are some food recommendations:
1. Eat fiber! Fiber helps keep you regular which keeps things moving and keeps you from feeling bloated! 25 grams a day is how much you should aim for. If you’re eating fruits and vegetables and whole grains, you should be okay hitting that number. If you don’t think you are, you can consider a fiber supplement.
2. Ditch the sugary and carbonated drinks! They are just empty calories and do NOTHING for you. Plus they make you bloated. Switch to water! If you don’t like plain water, add some lemon juice or ginger or cucumber to your water. You can buy a water bottle that muddles the fruit into the drink and it’s delicious!
3. Watch your sodium! Sodium can make you retain water and your abdomen bloat. Aim for 2300 mg or less per day. Obvious ways to cut it are to watch what you add when cooking, but also watch salad dressings, processed and canned foods, deli meats. Sodium is in a lot of things.
4. Drink water! Water helps flush toxins out and it also helps fill you up. A lot of times when you THINK you aer hungry, it’s actually thirst. So drink at least half your body weight in oz everyday, minimum of 64 oz (8 cups) everyday.
5. Eat CLEAN. What eating clean means is choosing whole foods like lean meats, beans, legumes, whole grains, fruits, vegetables. THings that are minimally processed and without aditives. When your diet is heavy with processed foods, there are added sodium and sugars in there, and in addition a lot of them have artificial sweeteners in there as well which bloats you even more.
Yes, you want to do ab work, but you also need to be doing cardio and core work!
3-5 days a week, you need to be doing cardio for 30 minutes a day. Cardio helps you burn calories which helps you lose excess weight, including stomach fat. You need this in order to actually see those ab muscles underneath that layer of fat you are trying to get rid of. There’s no magic cardio exercise that works for everyone – you have to find what works for you. I myself love interval training, cardio kickboxing, and walking/running. But it varies by person. If you need help finding something that works for you, just contact me and we’ll talk through it.
Work Your Core
You can do a million and one crunches and never see those ab muscles. Rather than doing your basic crunches, which we all know and love, consider doing exercises that work your entire core. Your core consists not only of your ab muscles, but your hips, your back, your glutes. This whole area has to be strong, so here are some exercises that can help you with your core.
1. Planks. You love them but hate them! Variations include on your hands, on your forearms, ann even with your knees on the floor as you build your strength.
2. Mountain climbers. In plank position, alternate pulling your knee into your chest. As you pull your knee in, exhale out.
3. Army crawl. In forearm plank, pull one knee to the outside elbow and feel the crunch in your obliques. In addition to your obliques, your entire core is hlding you up in plank while doing this. Make sure to not pike your hips up as you pull your knees in!
4. Pike ups. Start in plank on your hands. Keep your hands where they are and with your legs straight, jump your feet in as far as you can, pulling your belly button into your spine, and hop back to plank. You’ll feel it in your abs but also your shoulders, which are a bonus muscle to tone
5. Plank to forearm drops. Start on your hands in plank. Lower to one elbow, then to both elbows. Then push back up, 1 arm at a time, back to plank on your hands. Continue alternating between high low plank, one arm at a time. Make sure you switch which arm you are leading with halfway through! Note: this is a total body workout so have fun!
6. Stability ball work. The stability ball is great because it gets you off the floor and adds a level of complexity with trying to stabilize yourself on the ball.
a. Basic crunches. The further down the ball is on your lower back, the harder it is. Start with hands behind your head, feet flat on the floor, ball behind your upper back, midback, or lower back and crunch up and back.
b. Oblique crosses. Same as the basic crunch, but as you crunch up, twist your shoulder towards the opposite knee. Feet stay flat to start.
c. Knee lifts. Same as the oblique cross, but add the opposite knee lifting up towards the elbow. This will really challenge your balance so make sure you are ready for it!
d. Plank circles. Place the ball under your forearms and get yourself into a forearm plank on the stability ball. Nice and slow and controlled, start to move your arms and the ball around in small circles. This really engages your core as you try to control it and keep your abs tight to protect your lower back.
e. Jack knife. Advanced move right here! Get on all 4’s and place the stability ball under your feet. Your toes or the top of your feet should be on top of the stability ball. You’re in a plank on your hands. Option 1 is to bend your knees and pull them into your chest, rolling the ball with your feet, then extending to come back to plank. Option 2 is to lift your hips straight up, like the pike up, and slowly roll back to plank.
As always, you can still do some basic crunches, but I encourage you to make sure to do some of these exercises that work your core as well.
If you need help getting started with an exercise and healthy eating plan, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – that’s what I’m here for!
Happy flat stomachs to all!