As wonderful as it would be, you can't reduce your stomach size just by performing a few situps and crunches. Spot reduction of fat from a certain area is a myth. No matter how much core work you do, you won't get a trimmer midsection or washboard abs without also considering other types of exercise and dietary tactics.
Amazingly, weight training is one of the best ways to burn stomach fat. While hitting the weights will help you build lean muscle mass and get stronger, it also boosts your metabolism and burns calories. For best fat-blasting results, pick exercises that work multiple muscle groups, such as squats, lunges, pushups, rows and deadlifts, as these burn more calories. Don't worry too much about rep ranges, advises strength coach Nia Shanks. Pick a weight you can lift with good form that's challenging for a set of five to eight reps. If you can do more than 10 reps, it's probably too light for you.
Cardio tends to be the go-to exercise for most women looking to burn fat, and it certainly has a role to play in sculpting lean, defined abs. Cardio is a proven calorie burner that accelerates fat loss. But rather than plodding aimlessly on a machine for an hour, try interval training. Interval training involves working as hard as you can for 20 to 30 seconds, then reducing the intensity for 90 to 120 seconds and repeating, for a total of 20 to 30 minutes. With interval training you'll spend less time in the gym, but get even better results, writes exercise physiologist and trainer Jason Karp in "Shape."
While working your abdominals won't magically strip fat from your stomach, some core work is important. Stronger, more muscular abs will give your midsection a more defined look, plus a stronger core can help prevent lower back injuries. Your compound lifts such as squats and deadlifts will train your core stability, but look at including other stomach exercises such as planks, side planks, hanging leg raises and cable rotations in your routine, too.
Reducing your stomach size requires a three-pronged approach of cardio, weight training and diet. No matter how hard you work, you won't get a smaller stomach if you don't nail your diet too. Adjust your calories until you're losing around one pound per week, and base your meals around lean protein such as meat, fish and dairy products, along with fresh vegetables and small amounts of wholegrain carbs and healthy fats. Aim to increase your performance each exercise session by lifting a little more weight, performing extra reps or adding time to your cardio workouts. Always check with a doctor before altering your training and eating plans.
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.