You can't look stylish with a muffin top draped over the waistband of your skirt or trousers. While flabby sides just look bad, a pot gut formed by the fat that gathers in your abdominal cavity around your internal organs increases your risk of chronic disease. You can't spot-reduce and lose fat just from your stomach area, though. To trim your midsection, you must lose overall body fat. Then, focus on tightening and toning your abdominal and oblique muscles by performing targeted exercises.
Prepare to exercise. Begin your stomach and side tightening and toning workout by doing a 10-minute moderate-intensity cardio warmup. Take a brisk walk, dance or ride a bike to get the heart pumping and warm up the muscles.
Work both stomach and side muscles with the bicycle maneuver. Lie on your back with your hands behind your head. Touch your left elbow to your right knee and the right elbow to left knee.
Tighten your abdominal muscles on the Captain's chair. Place your forearms on the arm rests, with your back against the back rest and legs straight. Draw your knees up until your thighs are parallel to the floor. Twist your knees to the side as you lift them to activate the side muscles.
Do crunches on an exercise ball for maximum tightening. The extra effort of balancing gives you a better workout than a more stable surface, effectively toning muscles.
- The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide: Abdominal Fat and What to Do About It
- MayoClinic.com: Belly Fat in Women: Taking -- and Keeping -- It Off
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: How Much Physical Activity Do Adults Need?
- ExRx.net: Fat Loss & Weight Training Myths
- American Council on Exercise: Why Is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth?
- American Council on Exercise: American Council on Exercise (ACE)-sponsored Study Reveals Best and Worst Abdominal Exercises
- ExRx.net: Obliques
- ExRx.net: Waist Exercise Menu
- ExRx.net: Weight Training Guidelines
- Do two or three sets of 20 to 30 repetitions of exercises for the midsection. If you can do more than 30 repetitions of a given exercise, adjust the intensity by adding resistance or shifting to a more challenging set of moves.
- Follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's exercise guidelines. Perform a weekly minimum of two strength-training sessions and 150 minutes of moderate-intensity, or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity, cardio to burn overall body fat, including that around your middle.
- Substitute a stability ball for your office chair and occasionally roll back and do crunches while waiting for slow-loading web pages.
- Don't arch your back when doing abdominal exercises as this may cause back pain.
- If you experience back pain during or after a workout, consult your health care provider or a certified trainer on how to modify your workout to firm your midsection without injuring your back.
Carol Poster began writing professionally in 1974. Her articles have appeared in "Outdoor Woman," "Paddler," "Ski Magazine," "Women's Sports & Fitness," "Dance News," "Show Business," "The Athenian," "PC Resource" and "Utah Holiday," among other publications. Poster holds an M.F.A. in creative writing from Eastern Washington University, as well as a Ph.D. in English from the University of Missouri.