A toned stomach and obliques that are bikini-ready can be achieved by working the muscles with strength training. But if the muscles of your midsection are hidden beneath a muffin top or paunchy belly, you'll need to include cardio exercises in your plan since there's no such thing as spot reduction. To get a toned stomach and obliques even faster, include a calorie-reduced diet in your plan for a cinched, flat middle that will turn heads.
Tone your abdominal and oblique muscles with standing lifts, also known as hay balers. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and your knees slightly bent while holding a medicine ball or dumbbell in both hands. Position the weight near your right hip. Bring the weight up and across your body until it's above and slightly behind your left shoulder. Lower back to the starting position with control. Repeat for a total of 12 reps on both sides.
Cinch your midsection and flatten your belly with standing side crunches. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your right leg at a 90-degree angle, keeping your thigh in line with your upper body while positioning your lower leg so it's parallel with the floor, with your foot behind you. Raise your right leg to the side as high as possible. Place your hands behind your neck and head with your elbows pointing out. Bend your torso to the right as if trying to touch your right elbow to your right knee. Bring your torso back to an upright position. Perform 15 side crunches on each side.
Engage your stomach and oblique muscles while also toning your booty and thighs with glute activation lunges. Begin by standing with your feet hip width apart and your straight arms raised in front of you at chest level. Step forward and across your left foot with your right foot while extending your left foot behind you into a lunge. Simultaneously rotate your torso to the right so that your right leg is twisted toward the left and your upper body is twisted toward the right. Hold the position for two counts, and then push off your front foot to return to standing. Do 15 lunges on each side.
Lose weight all over to get rid of belly flab so you can reveal your toned stomach and obliques. Participate in 150 to 300 minutes of cardio exercise per week. Break up your exercise in shorter increments throughout the day if it's difficult to find long blocks of time for exercise.
Shed the flab faster by incorporating interval training into your cardio workouts. Perform intervals by doing short segments of regular-paced cardio followed by faster-paced segments. For example, walk briskly or jog for three or four minutes, and then jog or run, respectively, for 30 to 60 seconds. Continue alternating between normal and fast-paced exercise for the entire workout to burn more calories and lose more fat than you would in the same amount of time with a normal-paced workout.
Reduce your daily caloric intake by 250 to 500 calories to lose weight faster than you would with exercise only. Consume a minimum of 1,200 calories per day to support your body's nutritional and energy needs.
Fuel your body for exercise by eating a healthy, well-balanced diet that includes lean sources of protein, whole grain products, fresh veggies and fruits, and low- to non-fat dairy. Eat five to six small meals throughout the day to keep yourself satiated and energized.
Drink eight to 10 glasses of water daily. Dehydration often masks itself as hunger, which can lead you to overeat.
Include flat-belly foods in your diet, such as guacamole, peanut butter and chocolate. Avoid fat-belly foods like margarine, cheese and red wine.
- MayoClinic.com: Strength Training -- Get Stronger, Leaner, Healthier
- American Council on Exercise: Why is the Concept of Spot Reduction Considered a Myth?
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Common-Sense Strategies to Long-Term Weight Loss
- American Council on Exercise: Ab Exercises
- Fitness: Beat Belly Bulge
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Physical Activity
- MayoClinic.com: Rev Up Your Workout with Interval Training
- DoctorOz.com: Foods that Make Your Belly Flat vs. Fat
- Before you begin your plan for a toned stomach and obliques, check in with your doctor to get health clearance.
- Take one day off from cardio exercise per week and do your stomach- and oblique-toning exercises every other day to avoid overtraining syndrome. Exercising too much can lead to injury and fatigue because the muscles don't have enough time to repair and recover.
- When doing strength training exercises with weights, use a weight heavy enough to tire your muscles by the 12th rep.
Mary Ylisela is a former teacher with a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and mathematics. She has been a writer since 1996, specializing in business, fitness and education. Prior to teaching, Ylisela worked as a certified fitness instructor and a small-business owner.