Glossy magazine covers may promise flat abs with just one magical move, but the truth is that no exercise can blast fat from problem areas. While the bicycle maneuver is excellent for sculpting muscles, the best fix for extra padding is a smart weight-loss plan that includes healthy eating habits as well as a well-rounded workout routine. If you're currently sedentary, see your doctor before starting an exercise program.
The bicycle maneuver may not hold the key to flat abs, but don't dismiss it just yet. In a study by the American Council on Exercise, this move came out on top as the best ab-toning exercise around, beating out traditional crunches and situps as well as crunches on an exercise ball. Researchers studied people of varying fitness levels as they performed 13 of the most common resistance exercises for abs, and found that participants exhibited the greatest muscle activity during the bicycle maneuver -- which translates to a well-defined stomach for you.
Although the bicycle maneuver doesn't immediately affect belly fat, it still may have some long-term weight-loss benefit, especially when paired with an allover resistance routine. That's because your body composition directly affects your metabolism -- the more muscle mass you have, the more calories you burn around the clock. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that you can rev up your metabolism by up to 15 percent with muscle-building activities -- although you still need to keep your diet in check to lose weight.
Consistency is the key to reaping the weight-loss and toning rewards of exercise. Perform the bicycle maneuver, along with other resistance moves like dumbbell curls, squats and pushups, twice per week. Muscle-building happens during the recovery phase, so wait at least 48 hours between resistance workouts. For optimal weight loss, also get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate cardio exercise, which includes brisk walking or recreational swimming, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous cardio, which includes jogging or swimming laps of the breaststroke.
Weight loss alone may not lead to ultimate flatness -- bloating also affects the shape of your stomach. Gain ab confidence by avoiding foods that are hard to digest, such as cabbage, broccoli and beans, for about 48 hours before baring your midriff or squeezing into your favorite minidress. Some people also bloat after dairy products, so pay attention to your body next time you drink milk or eat cheese. You can also help avoid bloating by chewing slowly, avoiding carbonated beverages and drinking from your cup instead of a straw.
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Why Strength Training?
- American Council on Exercise: ACSM Issues New Recommendations on Quantity and Quality of Exercise
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity do Adults Need?
- MayoClinic.com: Bloating, Belching and Intestinal Gas: How to Avoid Them
Nina K. is a Los Angeles-based journalist who has been published by USAToday.com, Fitday.com, Healthy Living Magazine, Organic Authority and numerous other print and web publications. She has a philosophy degree from the University of Colorado and a journalism certificate from UCLA.