Situps strengthen and tone your ab muscles, but that's only part of the battle in getting a flat stomach. You've also got to lose the flab -- and spot reduction just isn't possible. The solution is to incorporate a comprehensive strength training, cardio and nutrition plan for weight loss all over your body. As your waist gets smaller and smaller, you'll look better and better overall -- and you'll develop a flatter, firmer stomach to boot.
Lift Some Weights
Build firm, lean muscle to increase your metabolism. You’ll burn more calories all day long, even while lounging on the couch. Do lunges for your legs, the seated row for your back, the chest press and, of course, crunches. Include biceps curls, triceps push downs and lateral raises for your shoulders. Choose a weight for each exercise that’s light enough so you can move with impeccable form but heavy enough so you can’t do more than 10 to 15 reps at one time. Repeat this workout on three, non-consecutive days each week and switch up your routine every four to six weeks to continually challenge your body in new ways.
Go All Out
Doing exercise intervals, or a short burst of intense cardio followed by a short recovery period, have been shown to be at least four times more effective than regular, old cardio. This means that you can lose the same amount of fat, and get just as fit -- if not fitter -- in less time. While you can choose any type of cardio you like, consider the treadmill as an example. Walk or jog for five minutes at a moderate pace that allows you to have a light conversation with a friend. Then run or walk at an all-out effort for one minute. Really push yourself, yet maintain control. Bring down the incline or pace and recover for two minutes. The recovery should be more challenging than your warm-up but easier than the all-out cardio burst. Continue the one-minute bursts and two-minute recovery periods for 20 minutes, and then cool down for five minutes. Do this cardio workout three days each week to effectively burn the extra chub.
Take Out the Trash
Eating trashy foods will keep you from getting that flat stomach, but don’t go overboard by vowing to eat the perfect diet. That’ll just set you up to feel deprived and then later binge on crappy foods so you wind up yo-yo dieting, which never works. Reduce sugary or packaged foods that you won’t even miss. These include soda, chips and candy. Ninety percent of the time, eat fresh, organic fruits, vegetables, beans, meats and grains. Ten percent of the time, enjoy your favorite splurges such as fresh chocolate cake from your favorite bakery or steak and fries at your favorite restaurant. Eat when you’re physiologically hungry and stop when you’re physiologically full to restrict the amount of food you eat.
Last but not least, focus on your abs. There are other ab exercises more effective than the crunch so you can develop a firm, strong middle to show off once you lose the pooch. Do bicycle crunches, the plank, and side plank and get on the roman chair each time you work out. To use the roman chair, step up on the foot pads, hoist yourself up on your forearms and lift up out of your shoulders. Engage your core and take your feet off the steps. Use your abs to bend your knees as you lift them up in front of your torso. Without using momentum, intensify the crunch by attempting to curl your tailbone off the pad. Use your ab muscles to slowly lower your legs back down again. With all ab exercises, intensely feel the contraction in your abs on the way up, as well as when you lower yourself down.
Suzanne Reilley is a fitness professional with a BS in exercise science and more than four years of experience as a full-time ACSM-certified personal trainer. She has been featured in DailyCandy and "The Washington Post," and has taught at Rancho La Puerta, rated Top Destination Spa by "Travel + Leisure."