Abdominal exercises such as traditional crunches can help you flatten your stomach by tightening your muscles. However, they won't help you "spot burn" any fat that's covering up the muscles, and they won't get you the best results on their own. Combine a series of exercises to boost the effectiveness of your routine. Also, the American Council on Exercise reports traditional crunches activate less muscle activity than many other forms of abdominal exercises.
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Significance of Cardio
Doing cardio exercises such as dancing and hiking help you lose weight and, thus, are the most effective exercise for belly fat loss. Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-paced exercise every day but double it if you're aiming for visible weight loss results. Split your daily exercise quota into two or three small sessions if you don't want to do it all at once.
In a study published in 2008, researchers in the Biomechanics Lab at San Diego State University found that exercises requiring body rotation and constant ab stabilization were the most effective stomach exercises. Doing crunches on an exercise ball, for example, is said to activate your rectus abdominis muscle 39 percent more and activate your obliques 47 percent more than a traditional crunch. Bicycle crunches target your rectus abdominis 148 percent more and your obliques 190 percent more. To do a set of bicycle crunches, lie face-up on an exercise mat with your low back pressed down and your hands placed gently on the sides of your head. Pull your knees into a 45-degree angle, tighten your abs and slowly lift your shoulder blades off the mat as you reach your right elbow and left knee toward each other. Simultaneously extend your right leg about a foot off the ground with your toe pointed forward. Rotate in a biking fashion to alternate between legs and elbows. Repeat 10 times, rest and repeat.
Strengthening your core muscles -- the muscles throughout your torso -- helps keep your body strong and stabilized. Also, having more muscle mass helps tighten your stomach because more lean muscle mass equates to a faster metabolism and more calories burned, according to "Good Housekeeping." Two classic core exercises are the vacuum and the plank. To do a vacuum, get down on your mat with your weight on your hands and knees, inhale while pushing out your stomach and exhale to pull it in as far as you can. Hold for three to five seconds and repeat for 60 seconds. To perform a plank, lie face-down with legs fully extended and prop up your body on your forearms and the balls of your feet. Hold it there for up to 60 seconds.
Don't sabotage your stomach-flattening regimen with a poor diet. Limit sweets and fatty foods and focus on eating low-calorie healthy foods such as fresh produce. Include low-fat dairy, lean proteins such as soybeans and skinless chicken and heart-healthy fats from foods such as seeds, nuts, avocados and fish. Be careful not to rob yourself of too much fuel; most people should stay above 1,200 calories per day to avoid slowing the metabolism and holding onto fat.