Part of my job as a fitness director for a large health club is to assess all new members after joining the club. In a typical assessment, count on a body fat and weight test, the discussion of current and past medical conditions and limitations, and the setting of your short and long term goals. When setting goals, I need to know what YOU want. What areas on your body are you trying to tone and tighten and/or strengthen? I think the number one area of focus for new members and workout enthusiasts alike is the stomach area. Whether we’re trying to lose those darned love-handles or just can’t seem to get rid of that little stomach pouch, knowing what your body can and can’t do will help tremendously in keeping your spirits up while you work towards the end result, your ultimate goal!
If I had a nickel for every time I heard a client say that they added extra sit-ups to their daily routine for the hopes of burning more stomach fat. If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times; you cannot target body fat reduction! That’s why when you notice someone who’s lost a lot of weight; you can easily see it in their face. They weren’t doing “neck” exercises! By adding those extra crunches, you’re actually breaking down more abdominal tissue, making them bigger and stronger NOT reducing your waist line but adding too it! In order to reduce the waist line, we need to either burn more calories, i.e. cardio or take in fewer calories by reducing the food we eat daily. A combination of the two and we get to our goals twice as fast!
“You cannot target body fat reduction!”
Now that we’ve separated fact from fiction, let’s look at our personal limitations to achieving our ultimate tummy transformation.
1.) Genetics: Genetics play a huge role in how our bodies take shape (or lack thereof!). The way the human body stores fat is something we inherit from our parents. Burning calories, on the other hand, are taken throughout the body evenly, leaving you with those stubborn last few pounds from the areas your parents gave you! Genetics may make it harder for you to achieve your goals but not impossible. Removing that outer layer of fat is necessary if you ever plan on unveiling that tummy this summer at the pool!
2.) Physical Limitations: Massive weight loss and Child birth are two huge factors for most when trying to get their bodies back on track. Stretch marks and loose skin is the most common concern in regards to these two areas. You can limit stretch marks during pregnancy with a good belly balm or Shea/Cocoa butter. If you weren’t pregnant first or neglected a daily belly rubdown, time will reduce the redness from stretch marks but may never fully go away.
Now that we’ve gotten all the “bad” out of the way, now for the fun stuff! Strengthening our abdominals will tighten, firm and support our mid-sections even with that little extra on the surface! Without strong abs, our middles may look good with clothes on, but the contrary can be frightening! Let’s take a look at some terrific, tummy tightening exercises designed to get our saggy middles, attracting ab-tastic attention!
Perform a crunch with the ball in the small of the back. 12 – 25 Repetitions. 3 -5 Sets. Follow up with a ball plank to really feel the burn!
Perform leg raise while lying flat on your back. Start with legs 6 inches from floor, rising to 12 inches. 12 – 25 Repetitions. 3 -5 Sets.
Abdominal Wheel Roll
Starting on your knees, roll forward slowly to assess full range of motion until desired depth is established. 10 - 25 Repetitions. 3 - 5 Sets. Follow up with a ball crunch to really challenge the abdominals!
Perform crunch being sure to hinge from abdominal area, not waistline. Keep hands in front or to the side, not behind head. 15 – 30 Repetitions. 3 – 5 Sets.