Despite the storm of flat belly exercises flooding fitness magazines, the signal-to-noise ratio usually favors the noise. Avoid the cacophony and get out your tinfoil hat when you hear the words "spot reduction." Achieving the coveted six-pack depends on genetics, diet, aerobic workouts and abdominal exercises derived from credible sources. There's no magic; just science.
Your Top 10 List
Your top 10 list of tummy-flattening exercises is based on a number of research studies. Since burning belly fat is a top priority, three different types of aerobic workouts are at the top of the list. The next seven exercises include the stability ball crunch, the bicycle maneuver, the captain's chair, the vertical leg crunch, the incline reverse curl, the pike and the roll-out. It's not what you do, it's how you do it that gets results. Draw your belly in as you perform each exercise, and perform only as many repetitions as you can do in perfect form. Pain in your neck, back or hip flexors indicates that your abs have reached the point of no return. Do not force yourself to continue.
Aerobic exercise is your best bet for reducing belly fat, a Duke University study found. The research team monitored two groups of subjects. One group performed workouts equivalent to 12 miles of jogging per week at 80 percent of their maximum heart rates. The weight-lifting group did three sets of eight to 12 repetitions, three times a week. The aerobic exercise group lost almost 20 times as more abdominal fat than the resistance-training group.
Aerobic Belly Flattening
Maximize the effects of aerobic workouts by choosing exercises that engage your abs. The sinuous hip and torso movements of belly dancing target your obliques and deeper core muscles. A 150-pound person can burn up to 153 calories per 30-minute session. For enviable obliques, borrow grandma's Chubby Checker records and twist the night away. Changing the way you work out on certain cardio machines also invites your abs to the party. On the stepping machines, lose the magazine, stop holding the handles and use your core to keep you upright. On the treadmill, your abs work harder if you use the incline.
ACE Picks the Best
Many magazines feature articles about the favorite ab exercises of top personal trainers. While many of these are effective, they are mostly based on the opinion of the trainer. In a benchmark study, the American Council on Exercise identified a list of top-performing abdominal exercises. The research was published in "ACE Fitness Matters" magazine. It differed from typical exercise articles in that the researchers used electromyography equipment to test the abdominal muscle activity in each exercise. The four top performers were the the bicycle maneuver, the captain's chair, the crunch on the exercise ball and the vertical leg crunch.
Performing the Top Four
For the bicycle maneuver, lie supine with your legs at a 45-degree angle and your hands behind your head. Bend your right leg and rotate your upper torso so that your left elbow moves toward the right leg. Repeat to the left. The captain's chair is performed at the gym. Place your forearms against the arm pads and your lower back against the back support. Bend your knees and draw them toward your chest. To perform the ball crunch, position your body so that your lower and middle back are against the ball's surface. Cross your arms at your chest, and curl your upper torso so that your ribcage moves toward your pelvis. For the vertical leg crunch, lie supine with your legs extended at a 90-degree angle and your hands behind your head. Draw your belly in and lift your shoulder blades from the floor.
Researchers at Sacramento State University also used electromyography to test specific abdominal exercises. Two types of wheel exercises, along with an incline reverse abdominal curl, performed at an incline, made the top of the list. The wheel exercises included the pike and the roll-out. A stability ball can substitute for the wheel. The incline reverse curl was performed on a slant board positioned at a 30-degree angle.
Performing the Top Three
The pike begins with your feet on the wheel handles, your hands on the floor and your body in an inverted "v." Pull your belly in, bend your knees, and draw them toward your chest. For the roll-out, kneel on the floor and hold the wheel handles. Keep your arms straight and roll the wheel forward, so that your body is in a plank position. To do the incline reverse curl, lie supine with your head at the high end of the slant board. Keep your knees slightly bent, and extend your legs toward the ceiling. Press down with your lower back, and lift your hips from the board.
- Science Daily: Aerobic Exercise Bests Resistance Training at Burning Belly Fat
- Mail Online: Wasting Time With Weights? The Best Way to Burn Belly Fat is Through Aerobic Exercise
- Wayne University: Get That Heart Pumping
- My Fitness Pal: Calories Burned Belly Dancing
- Fitness Magazine: Belly Dance Away Ab Flab
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
In 1999, Lisa Mercer’s fitness, travel and skiing expertise inspired a writing career. Her books include "Open Your Heart with Winter Fitness" and "101 Women's Fitness Tips." Her articles have appeared in "Aspen Magazine," "HerSports," "32 Degrees," "Pregnancy Magazine" and "Wired." Mercer has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the City College of New York.