Flicking through the fitness magazines and one thing is clear. It seems like everyone in the fitness industry has a ‘six-pack’ and it is something we can all aspire to. Well to a degree, we can but the reality for most of us is that it will take a lot of hard work and a major re-think of our eating habits, exercise routine and lifestyle. That said it is still possible even though the sad truth is that for the majority of us, our six-pack muscles are well and truly hidden by a few too many layers of body fat.
However, the misconception for many of the public is that by simply standing on a vibrating machine, strapping some electrodes to your torso or performing mindless crunches in a wobbly cradle, you can achieve chiselled abs in weeks, worthy of any magazine cover. If that’s what you are thinking, maybe now is the time to begin crying into your replacement meal milk shakes!
When asked what is the best workouts for flat belly? How many reps? What should I eat? The simple answer is that ‘there is no optimum exercise, rather a correct balance of appropriate exercises relative to your own goals and specific needs,’ advises Personal Trainer, Matt Lawrence. “If you want that six-pack look, it doesn’t matter how many crunches you can do, these alone are not the answer, you might have a very strong torso but if it’s hidden under a spare tyre you’re not going to see it.“
Correct diet and increased activity levels will help to reduce your body fat levels, but ultimately genetics also play a large part. In other words, some lucky people just don’t have to work as hard to get one. But hang on, whilst the aesthetics of a six-pack are plain to see, we can all benefit from improved core strength, even if we do have a little too much ‘cushioning’ around our mid-sections for our liking!
Stability exercises are designed to challenge your core muscles which not only help to flatten your tummy but also strengthen the muscles responsible for supporting your back and torso and in turn, they can also assist with improving your posture.
To find and contract these muscles, the easiest way is to ‘apply the cough test’ Matt suggests. “Grip your ‘love handles’, just above your waist and cough,’ he adds. ‘You should be able to feel pressure against your fingers when you cough. These are the core muscles tensing and bracing. The trick is to learn how to activate these muscles without the need to cough and then maintain the contraction whilst breathing normally.“
But the good news is that you can work your core muscles anywhere by actively tensing whilst doing normal daily tasks, such as driving your car, sitting on a bus or even at the checkout queue. Hopefully though you will have mastered the breathing technique as it is never polite to turn purple from holding your breath when being handed your change!
Below our experts have selected their top fifteen exercises to help you achieve flat belly, tone and strengthen your core abdominal muscles. But remember that a slim waist is the result of eating the right amount of food (calories) in relation to your lifestyle and to get rid of belly fat you need to restructure your food intake and increase your activity levels accordingly.
- Begin on your hands and knees in a relaxed position, without arching or letting your back sag.
- Brace your abdominal and draw your naval in towards your spine whilst squeezing your abdominal and pelvic floor muscles (the ones that control you going to the toilet).
- In this position, slowly extend your right leg out behind you whilst simultaneously lifting and reaching forwards with your left arm to try and achieve a straight line from finger tips of the elevated arm, across your body and along the extended leg.
- It is important to keep your hips still and ensure you maintain correct abdominal bracing throughout.
- Hold for 5 seconds and then slowly return your limbs to the start position and repeat raising your opposite arm and leg.
- Repeat the movement for 10 repetitions on each arm and leg.
#2. Dynamic Plank
- Begin on your knees, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart with a football or medicine ball by your feet.
- Brace your abdominal and extend your legs to take more weight through your arms and carefully place one foot followed by the other on the ball.
- Keeping your torso rigid and abdominal braced maintain your position with your feet on the ball and try and hold for 30 seconds.
- To increase the stabilization you could move your feet slightly or even lift one foot off the ball.
- To reduce the intensity you could maintain the ‘plank’ position with your feet on the floor with no ball or even with your legs bent and resting on your knees.
#3. Push ups with Rotation
- Begin kneeling on the floor and place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, on the floor in front of you.
- Then extend your legs behind you, supporting your body through your arms and feet and keeping your legs and body in line.
- As a guide, if you were to draw a line between your right and left thumbs, this line would go directly under your chin.
- From this position, keeping your abdominal braced to maintain a rigid body, bend your arms to lower your chest towards the floor.
- Lower until your chest is 4-6 inches from the floor (about a fist distance) and then extend your arms to push you back to the start position.
- Then slowly return to place your right hand back to the floor and complete another push up.
- This time as you extend your arms, lift your left hand off the floor and rotate to your left bringing your left arm into the air above you.
- Repeat these alternating push ups for 5-15 repetitions to each side.
- This exercise can be made easier by performing the push up element on your knees. This is one of the most effective workout for flat belly and to lose belly fat faster.
Also See: How to Avoid Injury When Working Out
#4. Eccentric Curl
- To get into the correct position, begin lying on your back on the floor with your knees in the air and taking hold of your legs rock yourself forwards to bring your feet onto the floor into a partially seated position.
- Your arms should be reaching forwards with your hands slightly over your knees with your abdominal braced.
- Using your abdominal muscles to control your movement, lower yourself back down to the floor as slowly as possible, keeping the movement constant.
- Aim to lower back to the floor over 10 seconds, before taking your legs in the air as before and rocking yourself forwards to get into the start position.
- Repeat these super-slow abdominal ‘roll downs’ for 5-10 repetitions.
#5. Medicine Ball Throw
- Stand holding a medicine ball over your head in both hands, keeping your abdominal braced.
- Throw the ball down onto the floor about 2-3 feet in front of you, initiating the movement from the torso, followed by the shoulders and finally your arms.
- Even though this movement is power based, the range of movement of the torso is minimal, yet dynamic.
- Repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
#6. Stability Ball Cobra
- Lie face down over a stability ball, so that the ball is under your chest, tummy and hips, with your legs outstretched behind you.
- Your arms begin over the ball with your hands just touching the floor to assist your balance.
- Brace your abdominal and slowly lift your arms and torso up, lifting your chest off the ball.
- As you rise up separate your arms to form a ‘crucifix’ position and squeeze your shoulder blades together as you continue to lift your chest and ribs away from the ball.
- Hold this top position briefly before slowly lowering back down and returning to the start position.
- Repeat for 6-10 repetitions to work your core, lower, middle and upper back.
- If you struggle with balance on the ball you can modify by holding the ball and performing the movement to still work your core and lower back.
- This workout can help you to get a flat stomach in no time.
#7. Lateral Bridging
- Lie on your right side resting on your right forearm and elbow with your legs outstretched, keeping your body in line.
- Brace your abdominal and stabilize your right shoulder to lift your hips up, supporting yourself through your elbow and forearm to keep your head, naval and ankles in line..
- Hold this position for 5 seconds and repeat for 8-10 repetitions before rolling over to your left side and repeating, again for 8-10 repetitions.
#8. Abdominal Curl
- Begin lying face up on the floor with your hands resting on your thighs and your feet on the floor.
- Curl your ribcage towards your pelvis, lifting your shoulders, upper and mid-back off the floor.
- Aim to keep your hips still so that only your abdominal are involved.
- Focus on controlled movement and remember the goal is to shorten the distance between your ribs and your pelvis as you curl forwards.
- Aim for 10-20 controlled repetitions.
#9. Super-Slow Bicycles
- Begin lying on your back with your knees in the air.
- With your hands supporting your head, contract your abdominal to lift your chest and head up so that your head and upper shoulders are away from the floor.
- Bracing your abdominal, extend your right leg at about 45 degrees to the floor, whilst keeping your left leg bent and your left knee close to your chest.
- In this position, rotate your upper torso slightly so that your right elbow moves towards your left knee.
- Extend your left leg out at 45% to the floor whilst bringing your right knee in to your chest as you rotate to your right with your left elbow moving towards your right knee.
- Repeat these cycling and twisting movements for 20-30 repetitions, before lowering your legs and resting.
- It is important to maintain tension through your abdominal, remembering the lower you have your outstretched leg to the floor, the greater the tension and without sufficient abdominal tension you might feel slight pain in your lower back.
- If that happens at any time, stop and when rested try again with your legs at a higher angle to the floor to make the exercise easier.
Must Read: Why is Cycling Good For You?
#10. Stability Ball Roll-out
- One of my most favorite workout for flat belly and to reduce belly fat faster.
- Begin kneeling behind a stability ball and place your hands together on top of the ball.
- Brace your abdominal and lean forwards, rolling the ball away from you as you support your weight through your forearms and elbows.
- Roll as far as is comfortable and then ease yourself back to the kneeling position.
- To intensify this exercise, move the ball slightly further away so that more of your body-weight is supported through your arms and repeat for 8-12 repetitions.
#11. Woodchop with Side Lunge
- Wrap the resistance band around a secure anchor point and hold the handles together with both hands and at full twist to your right, towards the anchor point, making sure there is tension in the tube.
- Bracing your abdominal, take a side step with your left leg to lunge to your left side and as you lower into the lunge position, twist from the waist, turning your torso so that the resistance band is stretched as you rotate to your left keeping your arms fixed.
- Try not to ‘over-twist’ in this movement and keep the movement speed controlled.
- Repeat the lunge and rotations for 10-15 repetitions before swapping to the other side and facing the opposite direction, lunging with your right leg and rotating to your right.
#12. Spiderman Walk
- This is a fantastic workout for flat belly, for core stability and to tone your tummy muscles.
- Begin on your hands and knees and then brace your abdominal and lift your knees off the floor so that you are supporting yourself on your hands and feet.
- From this position, keeping your body relatively still and parallel to the floor, try and ‘walk’ yourself forwards slowly by crawling, using only your hands and feet, not your knees.
- Aim to cover a distance of 10m-15m before stopping and resting and then repeat again.
#13. Stability Ball Abdominal Curl
- Lie back over a stability ball, so that your lower and mid-back are supported by the ball.
- With your hands on your thighs, curl slowly up to lift your chest, head and shoulders away from the ball and reach forwards so that your hands can touch your knees.
- Hold this partial curl position briefly before lowering back down onto the ball and repeat for 10-15 repetitions.
#14. Single Arm Press
- This is a great chest and core exercise.
- Wrap the resistance bands or tubes around a secure anchor point such as a door handle and then turn to face away from this point holding both tube handles in your right hand.
- Stand in a split stance, with your left foot forwards and hold the tube handles by your ribs.
- Use your left arm as a guide, holding it at chest height, yet outstretched in front of you.
- Keeping your abdominal braced, rotate your waist as you press the handles forwards, whilst simultaneously retracting your left arm.
- At full extension, pause briefly and then return back to the start position with your right hand by your ribs.
- Repeat these single arm presses for 12-15 repetitions before swapping hands and changing your stance so that your right foot is forwards when holding the handles in your left hand and repeat for desired repetitions.
#15. Kneeling Lateral Stabilization
- Begin in an upright kneeling position, so that you are not sitting back on your heels.
- From this kneeling position, extend your right leg out laterally to your right side keeping it straight, with your right foot on the floor.
- With your arms crossed over your chest brace your abdominal and slowly lean out to your left.
- Only lean as far as is comfortable and when you feel tension in your waist, hold the position for 5 seconds before returning and repeat for 5-10 repetitions on this side, before reversing your leg position, with your left leg extended out to the left as you lean slowly over to your right.
- To increase the intensity, place your hands behind your head or for a real challenge, hold a football or light medicine ball with your arms extended over your head.
These are the top 15 workouts that can help you to achieve a sexy and flat belly or stomach you have always dreamt of. Let us know, what do you think about these workouts. Please, do comment below for your feedback.