A Beautiful Belly
Almost everybody has a belly and in America 65% of them are bigger than they should be. A big belly is a health risk. The bigger your belly is the higher your risk for heart disease, diabetes, cancer and stroke. Women are at increased risk when their waist is 37 inches or bigger in circumference. Men are at increased risk when there belly is 40 inches or bigger. Get out your measuring tape and assess your risk. How did you fare? Time to get to work on that gut.
An Easy Washboard Stomach
What if I told you that if you would do 33 crunches everyday that your belly fat would melt away? I would be lying. It is really 34. Just kidding. There isn’t any magic number or exercise which preferentially burns belly fat. Exercising a body part to make is skinnier is called spot reduction. Unfortunately our bodies don’t work like that.
When you exercise you burn calories. Some of those calories come from fat. We store fat all over our body and when it is needed we take a little from here and a little from there. It seems like the last place you lose fat is the place you would like to lose it first. The famous last five pounds always seems to be on your tummy. Seeing the six-pack requires patience, persistence and a disciplined diet.
Eating for a Six-Pack
Eat all the chocolate chip cookies you want and have abs that ripple. Ha! I wish. Creating a washboard stomach requires burning your stored body fat. Burning your stored body fat requires you to be in a calorie deficit. You know what that means-eating less than you need. Prepare yourself to feel hungry on your way to the perfect stomach. Eating less than you need isn’t easy. Here are four tips to help you eat fewer calories than you need and still feel great.
1) Hydrate. When ever you feel hungry-drink some water. Try drinking a quart of water 10 minutes prior to eating. Drinking water helps you feel full. Drink up to a gallon of water a day.
2) Fill up on fiber. Go for high fiber, low calorie foods. Celery, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, chard, and spinach are all examples of low calorie, high fiber foods. Include these types of foods in all of your meals.
3) Snack on fruit. Fruit is also low in calories and high in fiber. Most fruit also has a lot of water in it. The combination of water and fiber make fruit a filling, low calorie snack. When you feel hungry grab an apple, orange, plum, peach, pear, mango or apricot.
4) Exercise. Exercising is a great way to reduce your appetite, take your mind off food and burn extra calories. Sometimes a quick 10-minute walk will do the trick.
In addition to eating right you will also need to exercise. Not only does exercise burn calories it also makes your stronger and healthier.
Exercise for Excellent Abs
To get rid of the gut you get to do two types of exercise-Cardio and Strength Training. You should strive for at least 30-minutes of moderate intensity cardio every day of the week. Depending on your health and fitness level you may do more or less. A full body strength training workout consisting of one set of 10-12 exercises with 12-15 repetitions done 2-3 times a week would be perfect. Here are three exercises specifically for strengthening your core (your belly and low back):
If you want a flat stomach the Hover will be your new best friend.
The muscle you work doing this exercise is called the Transversus Abdominus, TA for short. It’s the muscle that actually enables you to truly flatten your tummy. The fibers of the TA run from the front of your body to the back of your body. When you suck your belly in to button your jeans you are contracting your TA.
The Hover is also one of the best exercises for preventing low back pain. The TA is your very own back support belt.
Your TA is also important for keeping all of your abdominal organs in place. When all of your organs are where they should be your digestion improves and your energy levels go up. Your TA is your deepest core muscle and it stabilizes your spine while you move. So, if you want to stand up straighter, move more gracefully and have a flatter stomach, strengthen your core with a daily Hover.
So, here is what the Hover can do for you:
o Flatten your stomach
o Help eliminate back pain
o Strengthen and stabilize your core
o Improve your digestion and energy level
o Improve your posture
How to do the hover:
Start by lying on your belly with your elbow directly below your shoulder.
Curl your toes under and lift your body off the floor.
Pull your belly button toward your spine.
Remember to breathe.
To make the Hover a bit easier you can do it on your knees rather than your toes.
If you need more of a challenge you can lift one foot.
Try to hover for at least one minute.
While this doesn’t work your stomach it is a crucial core exercise. In order to have a strong stomach you need a strong back. You have your back muscles and your stomach muscles and your spine in the middle. In order for your spine to stay healthy you need a balance of strength from front to back. Doing stomach exercises without a good back extension sets you up to experience low back pain. Low back pain is the 2nd most common reason people visit their doctor. So, do your back extensions.
How to do a back extension:
Start by lying on your belly with your arms out to your sides like airplane wings and the palms of your hands facing down.
Take a deep breath in. As you exhale lift your head, chest and arms up off the floor as high as you can.
Keep your chin tucked under so the back of your neck stays long and in good alignment with the rest of your spine.
Lift your hands high and squeeze your shoulder blades together.
Inhale as you lower back to the floor.
Try for 15-20 back extensions.
While crunches won’t flatten your stomach, they will make it stronger. We can all use a little more strength. Crunches work a muscle called the rectus abdominus. The rectus Abdominus is your six-pack muscle.
How to do crunches:
Start by lying on your back with your knees bent and your feet on the floor.
Cross your hands over your chest.
Take a deep breath in. Then, as you exhale, tuck your chin into your chest slightly (this helps support your head and prevents neck injury), and slowly, using your stomach muscles, curl yourself up, bringing your head towards your knees.
Go slow and focus on really feeling this in your stomach. Try for 15-20 repetitions.
Take away Tips:
If you want abs that show, focus on eating well everyday and working out consistently. Tracking the number of calories you eat in a food journal is a fantastic way to hold yourself accountable to eating well. Be patient with yourself. Six-pack abs don’t show up overnight. Enjoy the journey!