The word flabby can mean somewhat different things to different people. Unfortunately, though, none of them are very flattering — particularly when the word refers to the abdominal region. According to the Oxford Living Dictionaries, flabby can mean "soft, loose and fleshy" or "lacking strength, vitality or effectiveness."
Each definition gets at a separate aspect of a flabby stomach. Problem 1: a roll of jiggly fat — or soft, loose flesh. Problem 2: a lack of muscle definition — not strong or effective. Fortunately, there's a remedy for this condition — diet and exercises to tighten the stomach.
Diet Paves the Way
For anyone carrying a substantial paunch, shedding pounds is nonnegotiable for tightening a flabby stomach. "Even if you have a flat abdominal wall, it won't show if you've got a few inches of fat on top of it," says David Knox, a Los Angeles-based fitness trainer, in his book Body School: A New Guide to Improved Movement in Daily Life. "There are different ways to go about losing weight, but for most people the common denominator is burning off more than you take in."
Creating a calorie deficit, or consuming fewer calories than you burn through activity, is key to trimming your tummy. Changing your diet is paramount in this endeavor. Consume more complex carbohydrates, such as vegetables and whole grains, and substitute your white breads and pastas for healthier versions. Watch your portion sizes and stay away from soda. Losing weight gradually improves the odds of keeping it off and helps prevent you from losing muscle mass along with fat.
Strengthening Your Core
Simply put, your core is your center of gravity. For most people, it's just below the navel. The core muscles support posture, gait and balance, and training them means doing exercises that get the hips, trunk and shoulders moving in harmony with each other. If you're just beginning your tummy-tightening training, start with the bird dog, front and side plank and glute bridge.
For more advanced work, choose five to 10 different exercises when planning an abdominal workout, advises Len Kravitz, Ph.D., a researcher and exercise scientist at the University of New Mexico. These should be a combination of spinal flexion exercises such as crunches and pelvic tilts, trunk rotation exercises and lateral flexion exercises such as the standing reach and pulls.
Kravitz recommends doing eight repetitions of each exercise before moving on to the next, and suggests that exercises be rotated every two to three weeks. Different exercises get to different sections of the abdominal muscles, so variety helps you cover all areas. Form is highly important, and to avoid injury, don't strain the chin forward toward the chest. Kravitz also recommends visualizing that your abdominal muscles are contracting tighter with each exercise to develop awareness of the importance of the contraction.
Boosting Muscle Mass
Even if you're primarily focused on your stomach, ab exercises alone do not Greek gods make. Boosting your body's muscle mass with strength training two to three nonconsecutive days a week will rev up the body's fat-burning ability throughout the day.
In fact, lean body mass is four times more metabolically active than fat — or to put it another way, muscle helps you burn more calories simply by existing. Another reason to have a well-rounded workout is that working major muscles can result in greater continued calorie burning than working smaller muscle groups.
Tummy Tightening Through Cardio
The most rippin' abs in the world aren't going to be much good if you find yourself winded after going up a flight of stairs. For effectively working off fat and dropping weight, the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderately intense activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous cardio activity a week.
High-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is an effective way of tuning up your cardiovascular system. It's a cardiorespiratory workout method that increases the intensity of your training by toggling between brief, high-intensity intervals and easier recovery intervals.
To get started, first choose an aerobic exercise and warm up for five minutes. Then, perform three or four speed and recovery intervals, pushing the intensity of the exercise for one minute and resting for two minutes. Finish with a five- or 10-minute cool down.
- Google Books: Body School: A New Guide to Improved Movement in Daily Life
- University of New Mexico: Superb Abs Resource Manual
- ACE Fitness: High-Intensity Interval Training
- ACE Fitness: Rethinking Core Training
- Harvard Health Publishing: Abdominal Fat and What To Do About It
- Health.gov: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition
- Oxford Living Dcitionaries: Flabby