A flat tummy is this year's must-have beach body accessory, though it's not all about losing weight. You can reduce your belly fat simply by performing hours of cardio and drastically reducing your calorie intake, but that will probably just make you look skinny. To give you those perfect curves, you need to increase the size of the muscles around your hips by incorporating weight training into your routine.
Diet and Cardio
Reduce your calorie intake. Unfortunately, losing fat from one specific area, such as your tummy, purely by training it isn't possible, but you can lose fat from your whole body, including your midsection by controlling your diet. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that active women consume 2,000 to 2,4000 calories per day. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound, and a safe, consistent amount to lose is 1 to 2 pounds each week. Use the USDA's guidelines and adjust your intake accordingly so you consistently hit a 1- to 2-pound loss each week.
Focus on fresh, nutrient-dense whole foods and include a balanced intake of protein, carbohydrates and fats. Your food choices should include lean meat, fish, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, beans and pulses, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and avocados.
Add cardiovascular exercise into your routine if you're not doing any already. Instead of sticking to your regular steady jogs and easy half-hour elliptical sessions though, try interval training. This involves short bursts of very high-intensity work, followed by a slightly longer, easier period. Intervals are far more effective for burning fat, according to strength coach Rachel Cosgrove. Warm up for five minutes on any cardio machine, go as hard as you can for 30 seconds, then steady for 90 seconds and repeat for 20 to 25 minutes.
Work the muscles around your hips -- the glutes and thighs -- two to three times per week as part of a total-body workout. Perform each exercise for three sets of eight to 12 reps.
Lie on your back with your knees bent to 90 degrees and your feet flat on the floor. To perform glute bridge raises, lift your hips as high as you can while digging your heels into the ground. Squeeze your glutes and hamstrings in the top position, then lower your hips back down under control. If these are too easy, try raising your feet on a weight bench or step, or performing them one leg at a time.
Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and knees and toes turned slightly outward, ready to perform squats. Descend by pushing your hips back and knees out and go as low as you can while keeping your torso upright. Pause briefly in the bottom position, then stand back up forcefully. Once you can perform body-weight squats comfortably, add weight using a barbell, kettlebell or dumbbells.
Bring your feet in next to each other with your toes facing straight ahead. Perform a lunge by taking a big step forward with your right leg and bending down until your left knee is around an inch above the floor, then push back up to the starting position. Repeat on the left and alternate legs until you've completed all of the reps. You can make lunges more challenging by adding weight, or stepping backward instead of forward.
Position yourself so only your forearms and the balls of your feet are on the floor to perform a plank. Hold your stomach muscles tight and pull your abs in. Hold this position for as long as you can while maintaining perfect technique. Once you can do 60 seconds, make the plank harder by placing your forearms or feet on a stability ball, or turning on your side and performing side planks.
- Consult your doctor before starting a training regimen and diet, and ask a qualified trainer for assistance with exercise techniques.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.