Everybody wants to lose a few pounds around the stomach and have nice flat abs, right? Scientists have been trying figure out the best abdominal fitness regimes since the 1950’s. There have been many, many “breakthroughs” ideas pertaining to getting those six-pack abs, including exercises, chemicals, infomercials, and even electrical stimulation devices, but none have really held the test of time.
Now, after years of research, the scientific consensus is that in order to get rid of the fat around the stomach a person has to exercise all the major muscles in the body, called the core muscles, and not just work the abs.
This article will discuss why this total body approach works best, and the exercises that will be most beneficial to achieve a more toned stomach.
Why “Crunches” Don’t Work
The biggest fad to hit the world of abdominal fitness in the last half-century is crunches. It is a basic exercise that is a shorter version of the sit-up. The thought was that sit-ups actually hurt the back more than work the abdominals, so if the person just goes about halfway up, they will get the same ab workout without the back strain.
In actuality, doing thousands of crunches will strengthen the abdominal muscles. How could they not? The problem is that they don’t burn fat very well. An overweight person could have the strongest abs in the world and nobody would be able to see them because they are under a layer of fat.
What Does Work?
About 50% of a person’s fat is located directly below the skin. The other 50% is located in the muscles. This means that doing abdominal exercises alone will not remove most of the fat in the body.
In order to lose fat around the stomach, a person must lose the fat in other areas of the body as well. Having a well-balanced diet and exercise regimen is the key to losing the most fat around the stomach.
Most experts agree that while doing abdominal fitness exercises is essential to strengthening the abs, the most efficient way to get the best abs is to burn overall fat as well.
What Exercises To Do?
There are many exercises to do to strengthen your abs. These exercises are obviously more effective than doing crunches for one main reason: crunches only target the lower abdominal muscles, which means there are many other muscles that aren’t being targeted to lose fat.
These abdominal fitness exercises will also exercise the internal and external oblique muscles, in order to get a more complete abdominal workout:
The Standard Plank and the Side Plank – The standard plank involves the person staying in an upright push-up position for as long as possible, followed by a rest and repeat. This exercises the frontal abs, or obliques. The side plank targets the side abdominal muscles, or obliques, as instead of two feet and two hands on the ground, you are on your side with one foot and one elbow on the ground. Hold for as long as possible, rest, rotate to the other side, and repeat.
The Dumbbell Swing – This exercise involves using a dumbbell with a weight that you can safely lift to your shoulders. Spreading your legs, start with a “football hiking” motion and then extend all the way upwards to shoulder height. Try not to use your arms to lift the weight, but rather your legs and abs to create the momentum needed to get it to shoulder height.
Squat Thrusts – These are also called “burpies” and are favorite among sports teams to get their athletes into shape. Many people who played sports when they were younger will remember these. They are still just as effective! Start from the push-up position. Push upwards then bring your legs in and stand-up. Squat back down and then shoot your legs backwards and do a push-up. This is one squat thrust. Repeat as needed!
The Alligator Drag Technique – This exercise is also designed to work all of your abdominal muscles as well as the core of your body, which is essential to weight loss around the stomach. Simply find a length of floor (a smooth surface preferably, but carpet will work) and at least ten yards of space, and get into the raised push-up position. Then tighten your abdominal muscles and crawl without using your legs to the end and back again. Rest and repeat.
Other Exercises For Abdominal Fitness and Abdominal Fat Loss
While abdominal exercises like the ones above target the rectus abdominus, and the internal and external obliques, they don’t target fat loss as well as other exercises. If you want to achieve strong abs then the key is to tackle this goal with tough, intense, targeted abdominal workouts. This is only half the battle, which is the bad news.
The good news is that the other half of this battle is easier than the abdominal exercises themselves. There are a few simple activities that you can do to make sure you get the most of all those abdominal fitness exercises you have done:
Walking – As amazing as it sounds, walking is one of the best exercises for your abs. Swinging your arms, and tightening your core section while you walk, will give you a good enough workout to drop some weight. When you start walking for at least 30 minutes a day, everyday day, your core muscles will get stronger and you will lose stomach fat.
Pilates and Yoga – These exercises are great for strengthening your core. Some of the key muscles that make up your core are… your abdominal muscles! These exercises are good for stretching, posture, and are low impact.
Swimming – This is a great exercise that targets almost all the muscles in the body and is also low impact. The act of swimming uses all of the core muscles to stay afloat, swim straight, and breathe properly.
While strengthening the abdominal muscles is necessary to getting a fit stomach and core, you also have to do some conditioning to get the best results. Easy core exercises to compliment abdominal fitness exercises is the best way to getting the abs you want!