It’s a conundrum; you want a toned, taut stomach but the body builder look isn’t really your style. No need to worry. Executing a comprehensive fitness plan that includes a healthy diet, regular cardiovascular activity and abdominal exercises can help you improve the strength of your core and flatten your tummy. When training, focus on the transversus abdominis, the deep-seated abdominal muscle that is responsible for pulling your stomach in toward your spine.
Burn fat throughout your entire body, including your stomach, with cardio. Perform at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense cardio per week, spread out over three to five days. Effective types of cardio include running, cycling, jumping rope and using the elliptical trainer.
Strengthen your transversus abdominis with a challenging variation of Plank pose. Come to all fours on an exercise mat. Position your forearms on the ground and your elbows under your shoulders. Pull your abdominal muscles in toward your spine and slide the shoulder blades down your back. Tuck your toes under and lift your knees as you extend your legs behind you. Avoid letting your stomach drop or your back hunch; there should be one straight line from your shoulders to heels. Engage your glutes and lift your right leg to hip-height. Hold the lift for one count and then lower it back to the ground. Complete a total of 10 repetitions and then repeat on the left leg; aim for three sets. Perform this exercise two to three times per week.
Use Scale pose to further strengthen and tone the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis. Sit cross-legged on the floor and place your hands beside your hips with your fingers pointing forward. Pull your stomach muscles in toward your lower back, engage your glutes and press your shoulders down and away from your ears. Push your hands into the ground as you roll your hips upward and lift your butt off the ground; you should be balancing on your hands. Aim to hold the pose for three counts and then lower yourself back onto the ground. Repeat for a total of three to five repetitions. Include Scale pose in your workout three times per week.
Stretch your abs after your training session to relieve tightness and assist with recovery. Stand in an upright position and swing your arms up above your head with your palms facing each other. Lift your chest to arch your back; you should feel a stretch throughout the front of your torso. Hold for 20 to 30 seconds and then release.
- Perform a five- to 10-minute warm-up and cool-down at the beginning and end of your training session with light cardiovascular activity.
- Consult with a health care professional before starting a new workout or fitness program. Let your doctor know if you have any chronic medical conditions.
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.