Firm belly. Tight tummy. Little middle. These are all just different ways of saying the same thing: strong abs. As part of an overall toned and fit body, a firm belly is easy to achieve if you’re willing to work for it. By incorporating effective strength moves into a healthy lifestyle that includes proper diet and cardio exercise, you can firm up your belly and improve your overall core strength, which will not only help you look better, but you'll also feel stronger, stand taller and tackle daily activities with energy.
“You already have abs. You just need to uncover them.” That’s what “Shape" magazine says, and it’s true. Even if they’re hidden by a little extra fat, your abs are still there waiting to be developed. Before you can show off the muscles, though, you have to focus on shedding total body fat. The tried-and-true way to achieve this is by eating a healthy diet and engaging in both cardio and strength-training exercises. Burn more calories than you consume and rev your metabolism by developing strong muscles. That way, as you firm up your abs, you’ll be able to see them as they progress.
Get to the Core
There are a million choices for exercises when it comes to firming up your abs, so why not go with the most efficient ones? Choose ab exercises that work more than one muscle group and you’ll maximize your time and effort. Use ab favorites such as planks and crunches, but look for variations that incorporate both the upper and lower abs and obliques. Try planks with knee-ups, bicycle crunches and side planks for some great starting options.
Add Some Weight
If you want to add a little resistance to your belly-firming workout, go for it. Some of the most effective ab exercises include the use of a medicine ball, kettlebell or set of dumbbells. Try medicine ball crunches and twists, which not only work the upper, lower and side abs, but also the muscles of the back and legs. By making you hold your balance while performing the move, they also increase total core stability.
Some of the most effective cardio workouts now include moves that are specifically for strengthening abs. Most of these workouts can be done from your own home simply by buying a DVD and pushing play — and moving along with it, of course. Try any of the available DVDs in order to get a powerful cardio workout and target the abs at the same time.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.