Who doesn’t want tight abs? Firm and toned abdominal muscles are the quintessential mark of superior physical specimens. Plus, they are totally buff!
Lucky for us that you don’t need fancy equipment or an expensive gym membership to get the six-pack of your dreams. Check out these three life-changing tips on toning and tightening your midriff:
One slimming technique that doesn’t require any exercise at all is simply to stand straight. Slumped posture, with a curved spine, makes your belly stick out. Ew. One way to train yourself to sit and stand is by placing a book on your head. After a while, your balance will improve – and the book will stop teetering and falling off your head – as you become accustomed to looking ahead, rather than down.
Diet is key. While toning up, slim down. Ditch the junk food and replace it with healthier alternatives. Snack and fast foods don’t have to be high in calories and fats to taste good – and due to their nutritional value, your body will thank you by feeling better overall.
Don’t skip meals. When your blood sugar level plummets, you become tired, irritated, and want to eat more. Some people keep raw fruits and vegetables, non-sugary granola bars, and nuts handy when hunger strikes.
Ease up on the alcohol consumption. Medically classified as a depressant, booze slows your metabolic rate (how fast you burn calories to produce energy) which, in turn, slows down the body’s ability to burn fat.
You knew we’d get around to some workout tips, right? The general idea here is to combine ab-centric exercises with an all-body routine. After all, the stomach is in the middle of the body’s core (torso). The ab muscles connect to the mid and lower back, and, peripherally the hips, shoulders and neck.
If you want to get technical, this is from Jessica Smith TV:
“These spinal stabilizing muscles run from your shoulder blades, along your spine and back and include the four muscles of the abs (transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominius) and the major muscles in the hip.”
For abdominal strengthening, the mainstay exercise is the crunch, an abbreviated sit-up. These work on the principle explained by the American Fitness Professionals & Associates:
“Abs connect your ribs to your hips along your front and sides. When you use your abs, they pull your ribs and hips closer, bending your spine to the front or sides.”
To start a crunch, lie on a soft surface (like a yoga mat) with your back with legs slightly bent, and heels resting on the floor. Interlace both hands behind your head and extend your elbows away from the ears. Lift your head toward your knees. Avoid using your arms and keep your lower back on the floor. This motion forces you to tighten the abs.
There are many variations on the basic crunch: torso twists left and right during the raises; lifting the legs to bring opposite bent knees to the elbows; and pedaling an imaginary bicycle, to name a few.
You can also perform crunches while sitting in a sturdy chair by lifting your knees to the opposite elbows. Add difficulty by raising your arms above your head as you lower your head toward the knees.
Side bends tone the important side muscles, called the obliques. A standing side bend, with feet spread at shoulder width, can be done either with hands on hips or extended overhead, palms facing inward.
A seated twist builds some serious core muscles. Sit with knees bent and arms extended straight ahead of you with palms facing inward. Slowly draw one arm back as you twist your torso in that direction before returning to the starting position. Repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side, using the other arm and twisting in the other direction.
No discussion of ab building would be complete without mentioning the plank. This awesome position strengthens not only the stomach muscles, but the arms and derriere. Start as if you were going to do a push-up, on the palms of your hands with feet slightly separated and toes curled under. For safety’s sake, make sure your wrists are directly in line with your shoulders.
Just holding this basic plank position is difficult at first. Don’t worry if you start shaking – just hold on as long and as best as you can. Over time, these muscle groups will be able to support your weight with ease and you’ll wonder how you ever doubted you could do them.
Plank variations include “out-out-in-in” where you move one foot outward, then the other one, before returning the first and second foot to the basic starting position. Another variation is to roll both feet to one side, and then the other.
An easier variation is to rest on the elbows and forearms with hands together in front, rather than stand on the palms of your hands. Hold this position or do variations from it.
Final advice: be wary of those “too good to be true” ads for miracle weight-loss and “instant, no effort” tummy toning products. They are probably scams – and you don’t need to waste your money on false promises.
Get the tight, toned, swimsuit-ready body of your dreams through good posture, diet, and exercise. Why wait? Sure, it’s cold outside now. But summer is coming!