Life can be so unfair at times -- you’ve pushed and sweated through workout after workout to reduce your body-fat percentage, yet your stomach still sticks out. The problem is likely weak stomach muscles, especially the transversus abdominis, which is the deep-lying muscle in your abdomen. No matter how lean your body is, a weak transversus abdominis can cause the lower back to curve at an exaggerated level and result in a pot belly. Incorporate abdominal exercises into your workouts on a regular basis and pretty soon your friends will look at your flat tummy and say, “That’s so unfair!”
Train your stomach three days a week, allowing for a day of rest between sessions for recovery. Pay attention to your technique and form to maximize muscle development. Keep your stomach muscles engaged, contract your glutes and relax your hip-flexors, which helps the work come from your abs rather than momentum.
Perform a five- to 10-minute warm-up before you begin working your abs to get the blood flowing through your body. Engage in moderately paced cardiovascular activity, such as jogging, jumping rope, climbing stairs or brisk walking.
Strengthen and tone your entire midsection with the plank. Come to all fours on an exercise mat. Place your forearms on the ground, palms facing down and elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees as you extend your legs behind you; your body should be in one straight line from shoulders to heels. Pull your stomach in toward your lower back and slide your shoulder blades down your back. Maintain a neutral neck. Aim to hold the pose for 30 seconds. Complete three repetitions.
Flatten your stomach with Warrior III pose, which requires you to use your abs to stabilize and balance on one leg. Stand tall with your feet hip-width apart and shoulders stacked over your hips. Engage your abs and your glutes, lift your chest and push your shoulders down and away from your ears. Balance on your right leg as you lift the left leg and extend it behind you at hip height. Simultaneously bend at the hips and lean your torso forward until it is parallel to the floor. Keep your arms alongside your torso. Press into the floor with your right foot and continue to pull your abs in toward your spine to stabilize. Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then repeat on the left leg.
Stretch your abdominals after your workout with Cobra pose. Lie prone with the tops of your feet on the floor and your toes pointed. Place your hands under your shoulders and straighten your arms to lift your upper body toward the ceiling; you should feel a stretch along the entire front of your torso. Hold the stretch for 15 to 30 seconds.
- Mix up your abdominal workouts by including a variety of exercises that work the transversus abdominis in different ways; regularly challenging your abs can help with muscle growth and development. Additional examples of exercises that target you transversus abdominis are the stability ball knee tuck, bird-dog, stability ball pike, inchworm and plank with hip rotations.
- Consult with a physician before starting a new fitness program. Let your doctor know if you have any injuries or medical conditions that may limit your fitness ability.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.