Washboard abs are among the most coveted features of a beach-ready bikini body, but a flat stomach doesn't just appear one day. You'll have to shed fat to get the flat stomach you crave. Building muscle can help add definition to your stomach, and many people with muscular abs have flat stomachs. However, if you don't shed fat as you build muscle, your stomach won't be flat.
Flat Stomach Basics
It's easy to get caught in a perpetual cycle of crunches and sit-ups in the quest for a flat stomach, but building muscle alone isn't usually enough to get a flat stomach. While a muscular stomach can be flat, muscle isn't enough to get washboard abs. If you only build muscle without shedding fat, the muscle will be hidden under a layer of fat. You might be stronger and more physically fit, but your stomach will still look flabby.
Cardiovascular exercise burns more calories than targeted exercises, and spot reduction of fat isn't possible. Instead, you'll need to get your entire body working. Try exercises such as cycling, jogging, jumping rope or hula hooping. Interval training -- a type of cardiovascular exercise during which you alternate between high-speed, high-intensity exercises and lower-speed, lower-intensity exercises -- can rev up your cardio routine and help you build muscle as you shed fat.
Building muscle won't just help your stomach look better. It can also speed up the process of shedding fat because muscle burns more calories than fat. To build muscle in your stomach, try exercises such as crunches and sit-ups. For a more challenging routine, try scissor kicks. Lie on your back with your legs straight out and lift your legs off of the ground, then spread them apart. Planks also target your back and abs. To do a plank, lie on your stomach with your elbows bent and rest on your hands. Slowly lift up onto your toes, using your hands to support you, and keeping your abs tightened. Then lower back down.
Role of Diet
Reducing your caloric intake can help speed up your flat stomach timetable. Focus on eating lean proteins and plenty of fruits and vegetables. To lose a pound of fat, you'll need to eliminate 3,500 calories through diet and exercise. Avoid foods that can cause bloating, such as very salty foods, as these can make your stomach look puffy. Drink plenty of water and eliminate sugary drinks with empty calories from your diet.
- American Council on Exercise: Ab Exercises
- The Complete Book of Abs; Kurt Brungardt et al.
- MayoClinic.com: Water Retention
- Exercise Physiology; Scott Powers et al.
- High Intensity Interval Training Explained; James Driver
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.