The Internet is full of advertisements for secret methods to flatten a flabby belly. However, the only magic formula or trade secret behind toning your stomach is combining cardio exercise with regular abdominal exercises to strengthen the muscles that give shape to your belly. Burning the excess fat away with cardio allows these muscles to emerge, giving you the sleek, flat belly you're looking for.
Cardiovascular exercise like running, cycling, inline skating or swimming is the most efficient way of burning enough calories to lose the extra weight around your middle, revealing the abdominal muscles beneath. Burning 3,500 calories more than you’ve taken in is equivalent to losing a pound of weight. A 155 pound person will burn approximately 450 to 550 calories an hour running, cycling, swimming or skating at a moderate pace. Adding an hour of these activities to your schedule five times a week could lead to weight loss of about 3 pounds a month, provided you don't increase your calorie intake.
While you're busy burning the fat off your abs, don't forget to tone the muscles underneath. Traditional floor crunches are an effective way of building abdominal muscles, but according to a 2001 study commissioned by the American Council on Exercise, stability ball crunches are significantly more effective than traditional floor crunches. To do stability ball crunches lie face-up on the ball, which should support you from upper back to hips. Squeeze your abs, lifting your shoulders off the ball. Think of bringing your lower ribs closer to your hips. Return to the start position, but don’t lie back on the ball. Instead, go straight into the next crunch. Aim to complete two to three sets of 12 to 15 crunches.
The captain’s chair, also called the Roman chair, ranked as significantly more effective than traditional crunches in the ACE study as well. The same ACE-commissioned study also disproved the common belief that you can work the upper and lower parts of your rectus abdominus muscle separately; however, this exercise is commonly thought to emphasize development of the lower abs. To use the captain’s chair, which resembles the padded back and arms of a seatless chair suspended on vertical supports, place your back against the chair back and position your forearms on the chair arms so that they support your weight. Squeeze your abs tight as you lift your bent knees to waist level. Lower your knees, extending your legs slightly in front of your body line. Repeat for two to three sets of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Bicycle crunches also ranked very high in the ACE-commissioned test. Although this exercise emphasizes your obliques, it also places a lot of strain on the rectus abdominus. The bicycle maneuver is convenient because it requires no special equipment beyond an exercise mat to pad a bare floor. Lie down on your back. Lift your straight legs to a 30-degree to 45-degree angle from the ground. Crunch up and to the left as you bring your left knee in. Imagine you’re trying to touch your left knee and right shoulder together. Return to the start position, then crunch up and to the right as you bring your right knee in, as if you were trying to touch your left shoulder and your right knee. Continue alternating sides for two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions per side.
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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.