Most times, having a "saggy belly" means you've been through something monumental — you've been pregnant or lost a lot of weight, for example. And while you might want to get rid of this extra fat around your midsection, take a second to appreciate everything your body has done for you.
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A saggy stomach might also mean your abdominal muscles — particularly the rectus abdominis ("six-pack" muscles), transverse abdominis (deep ab muscles) and obliques (at the sides of your torso) — are weak.
You can strengthen these muscles by doing targeted ab exercises. But you'll also need to make sure you're eating a nutrient-dense diet (think: lots of vegetables and lean protein) and doing regular cardio exercise and full-body strength training.
Aerobic exercise helps burn sagging belly fat, and strength training builds muscle that burns extra calories and increases the definition of your abs. Aim to exercise aerobically for 150 to 300 minutes and do two full-body strength training sessions each week, as recommended by the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
For maximum benefits, incorporate HIIT (high-intensity interval training), which involves bursts of activity followed by rest. A March 2019 study in the journal American College of Cardiology, found that participants who did HIIT lost more belly fat and took more inches off their waist than those who did moderate-intensity exercise.
These seven sagging stomach exercises are the finishing touches. Try a few of them during your next strength-training session.
1. Long Lever Crunch
- While lying on your back, prop your heels up on a bench, box, chair or step and extend your arms straight behind your head, hovering just above the floor.
- In one steady movement, raise your shoulders off the floor and move your torso upward.
- Squeeze your abs forcefully and press your heels against the bench as you slowly lower yourself back down, per the University of New Mexico.
Long lever crunches primarily work the upper portion of your abdominal muscles. To increase the resistance, hold a weight plate or medicine ball in your hands.
2. High Plank Hold
- While lying on your stomach, place your hands directly beneath your shoulders and extend your legs out behind you, feet together.
- Steadily push your body off the floor, fully extend your arms and form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders.
- Feel your abs tightening as you get into this position and hold until you feel fatigued. (Aim for at least 10 seconds and don't go longer than 2 minutes.)
The plank is an isometric exercise that works your entire core, including your rectus abdominis. For a variation, place your forearms on the floor instead of balancing on your hands.
3. Stability Ball Knee Tuck
- Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and prop your lower shins up on a stability ball.
- Hold yourself in a high plank as you roll the ball forward, tucking your knees into your chest.
- Hold for a second, then extend your legs back out so that you're in a plank again.
Knee tucks work your upper and lower abs. For a challenging variation, perform these with one leg at a time. With either version, keep your back as straight as possible.
4. Windshield Wiper
- While lying flat on your back, extend your arms out to your sides and raise your legs straight above you with your feet parallel to the ceiling.
- Keeping your upper body still, slowly lower your legs down to your right side, going as far as you comfortably can.
- Bring your legs back to perpendicular, then lower to the left side.
- Move back and forth in a smooth, controlled motion.
Lying twists (aka windshield wipers) work your obliques. To increase the intensity, place a medicine balls between your ankles, says ExRx.net. For an easier variation, bend your knees to 90 degrees.
5. Side Plank Hip Dip
- Lying on your right side, stack your legs, prop your head up with your right hand and place your left hand on your hip.
- Push yourself up into a side plank until you form a straight line from your shoulders to feet.
- Slowly lower your hips toward the floor (without touching it), then lift them back up as high as possible, and repeat.
- After doing a set of reps, switch sides and do the same number of reps.
Side plank hip dips target the obliques. For an advanced variation, extend your leg in the air every time you lift your body up. To modify, drop to your knees. With any version, maintain straight alignment from your shoulders to heels (or knees).
6. Pilates Criss-Cross
- While lying on your back with your hands on either side of your head, lift your legs, bend your knees to 90 degrees and hold your shins to the ground.
- Raise your head and shoulders off the floor and move your right elbow and left knee toward each other while extending the right leg out straight.
- Reverse this motion to work your other side and continue to alternate back and forth.
7. Toe-Reach Crunch
- Lie on your back with your legs extended toward the ceiling.
- Flex your abs as you reach your fingers to touch your toes, lifting your upper back off the floor as you crunch up.
- Continue for one minute, maintaining proper form.