Muffin tops, spare tires, belly rolls -- these are among the names you can use to refer to your untoned abdomen. Diet is really important for giving you the slim, toned tummy you have always wanted, but exercise plays a vital role too. To get your stomach toned and beach-ready, target those muscles with some great jelly belly-busting exercises.
For best results, perform two to four sets of each exercise. Perform as many reps as it takes for you to really feel the exercises working the target muscles. Rest for around 60 seconds between each set. Breathe out as you contract your muscles and breathe in as you relax. For the plank variations, breathe normally and avoid holding your breath.
Planks are isometric exercises. Although your stomach muscles are working hard, there is no actual movement. Planks strengthen your deep core muscles, which are important for pulling your stomach in. With repetition and practice, you will find that your stomach muscles feel slightly tensed at all times, which will help keep your abdomen looking flat and toned. To perform a plank, lie on your front and rest on your forearms. Lift your hips so that your body is straight and your weight is supported on your toes and arms only. Hold this position, but not your breath, for as long as you comfortably can. Rest and repeat. You can make this exercise easier by bending your legs and resting on your knees.
Chinnies, also called a bicycle crunch, are widely practiced by sprinters and other sportsmen. They combine a crunch with a twist, which means they target not only your abs but your obliques or waist muscles at the same time. Lie on your back with your legs straight and your hands on your temples. Sit up and simultaneously lift and bend one leg. Twist and touch your elbow to your knee. Lie back down and repeat on the opposite side. Shoot for 10 to 15 repetitions per leg and continue alternating sides for the duration of your set.
Side Plank Leg Lifts
Side planks target your obliques or waist muscles. Spot-reduction is a fitness myth, but side planks can help increase the tone in your waist muscles, which combined with a good diet, should result in a smaller, tighter waistline. Lie on your side and rest on your elbow. Keep your legs straight and lift your hips so that your weight is supported on your arm and the side of your foot only. Hold this position, lift your top leg up and out to 45 degrees and then lower it back down. Continue until you feel your waist muscles begin to tire; 20 to 40 seconds is a good target. Roll over and do it all over again on the opposite side.
Your abs can flex your spine in one of two ways; they can curl your shoulders toward your hips or curl your hips toward your shoulders. Most core exercises -- crunches for example -- involve lifting your shoulders, and while there is no such thing as upper and lower abs, lifting your hips means you will be working your abs in a novel way. In exercise, novelty often gets better results than doing more of the same movements that you have performed before. Lie on your back with your legs bent to 90 degrees. Put your hands flat on the floor next to your hips. Without pushing with your arms, lift your tailbone and curl your hips toward your shoulders. This is a small movement so don't overdo it by swinging your legs up and over your head. Lower your tailbone back to the floor and repeat. Perform 10 to 20 repetitions or until you feel that your abs are fatigued.
The Navy SEALs are tough guys with a high level of fitness. One of the exercises that they frequently perform is flutter kicks -- especially when they are doing their diver training. While you might not be going on any covert missions in the near future, you'd probably love a midsection like a Navy SEAL. Lie on your back with your hands under your butt. Lift your feet 12 inches off the floor. From this position and keeping your legs straight, begin beating your feet as though you are kicking through water. Do not allow your feet to touch the floor. Keep your abs braced and lower back pressed into the floor. Perform this exercise for reps or for time. Either way, avoid the temptation to just drop your feet to the floor at the end of your workout. Instead, lower them under control and then congratulate yourself on a job well done.
- Essential Abs; Kurt Brungardt
- Fab Abs : Anita Bean's Six Week Workout; Anita Bean
- Complete Guide to Navy Seal Fitness; Stewart Smith
- You Are Your Own Gym: The Bible of Bodyweight Exercises; Mark Lauren and Joshua Clark
Patrick Dale is an experienced writer who has written for a plethora of international publications. A lecturer and trainer of trainers, he is a contributor to "Ultra-FIT" magazine and has been involved in fitness for more than 22 years. He authored the books "Military Fitness", "Live Long, Live Strong" and "No Gym? No Problem!" and served in the Royal Marines for five years.