If you have access to a gym, you're on the way to a flat stomach. When combined with a healthy diet, gym workouts can help you transform your midsection and uncover strong, sexy abs. The caloric deficit you create through eating right and working out will help you shed body fat from head to toe.
Start with cardio. Second only to diet, cardio is the main flat-stomach factor. By doing cardio, you not only burn off what can be a high number of calories, you also tone your core muscles, including your abs. According to Harvard Health Publications, a 155-pound woman can burn more than 370 calories in 30 minutes by running at a 10-minute-per-mile pace, which can help tremendously in your quest to flatten your belly. Because it takes 3,500 calories to burn one pound of body fat, you’ll be able to shed it faster when doing cardio workouts. Aim for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended 30 minutes, five days a week.
Start your strength-training routine with a move that targets your upper abs. The gym is filled with equipment that can help you get an effective core workout, and one of the most efficient moves for your upper abs is the decline bench crunch. Perform three sets of 12 to 15 crunches taking short breaks of one minute between sets. If you would rather substitute another move for your upper abs, try stability ball crunches or regular floor crunches.
Move on to an exercise that engages both your upper and lower abs. Tuck crunches, air bikes and cross-body crunches use your full set of abs and helps develop muscles both above and below your waistline, which will be revealed as you lose body fat. Perform three sets of 15 to 20 reps of your chosen exercise resting for 30 seconds between sets.
Target your obliques. As the side muscles of your abs, the obliques can be tough to work, which is why it’s important that you work them through strategic exercises. Medicine ball twists and oblique crunches are two of the most effective moves you can do at the gym to target your obliques, or you can use one of the gym machines designed to challenge that area of your body. If you do medicine ball twists or oblique crunches, do three sets of 15 to 20 reps with one minute between sets. If you opt for a machine, just aim for 50 total crunches on each side.
Finish with a move that targets your lower abs. The most powerful move you can do for this section is the hanging leg raise, which can be done either by using a pull-up bar or a padded leg raise machine with arm rests. Depending on your level of fitness, choose which is right for you and perform three sets of 12 to 15 reps with a minute between each set.
- While it doesn’t directly affect your flat stomach, it’s a good idea to stretch between your cardio and strength workouts. This helps promote healing in the muscles and can decrease your muscle soreness. Stretch out your abs after your strength routine, too, to help ward off physical discomfort the day after your workout. Also, keep in mind that a healthy diet is half the battle and that you will only shed body fat if you take in less than you expend. You also must consider genetics when evaluating your shape. Your ability to achieve a "flat" stomach may look different than someone else's depending on your predetermined genetic makeup.
- Don’t train your abs on back-to-back days. Your muscles need time to heal and repair themselves, which can only be done when they are at rest. Allow at least 48 hours between ab sessions and always check with your doctor before beginning a new diet and exercise program.
After graduating from the University of Kansas with a bachelor's degree in sports information, Jill Lee served for 10 years as a magazine editor for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA). Also a published author, Lee now works as a professional writer and editor focusing on fitness, sports and careers.