Trading stomach fat for a six-pack is more of a two-step process than just launching into a series of crunches, twists and other exercises that target the abs. Ab exercises can strengthen and tone the core, but there's no way of spot-reducing belly fat. Instead, you must reduce your total body fat through diet and exercise if you ever hope to see that toned tummy.
Reducing Body Fat
Eliminate excess calories from your diet by reducing portion sizes and opting for healthier foods. Because 1 pound of fat contains 3,500 calories, you can expect to lose 1 pound a week by reducing your caloric intake enough to reach a deficit of 500 calories a day. As you lose weight, you reduce body fat, which can help trim the waistline.
Choose whole grains over refined ones. Products made from oatmeal, brown rice, barley, bulgar, wheat and other common whole grains might help you shed belly fat more effectively.
Drink water over other beverages. Water not only quenches your thirst, but also lacks calories. Drinking soda, juice, beer or other calorie-containing beverages can sabotage your weight-loss goals by increasing your caloric intake.
Increase your level of physical activity by getting some type of cardio exercise most days of the week. A good goal is at least 30 minutes of moderately intense cardio, such as swimming, biking, walking or dancing. You can also increase the intensity of your workout to burn more calories, helping to reach the caloric deficit needed to lose belly fat.
Incorporate strength training into your workout routine. Lifting free weights, using weight machines or even trying resistance bands can help add muscle to your frame. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so you're actually increasing the number of calories the body is using throughout the day. Like increasing your level of physical activity, this can help you reach that deficit in calories to shed stomach fat.
Schedule time in each workout for abdominal exercises. Double leg lifts will target your lower belly muscle, the transversus abdominis. Lie on the floor on your back. Place your hands, palms down, under your sacrum. Lift both legs at once to a 90 degree angle. Lower them slowly back down. Work your way up to 10 leg lifts over time.
Work some pelvic lifts into your ab routine. Lie on your back with your knees bent at a 45-degree angle. Rest your arms at your sides, then tighten your abdominals. From there, lift your hips and buttocks away from the floor. Hold for a breath or two, then return to your original position. Repeat.
Counter the lift with pelvic tilts. Lie on the floor with the knees bent at a 45-degree angle and arms to your sides. Draw your bellybutton toward your spine until your back is lying flat against the floor. At the same time, tilt your pelvis up. Hold this pose for at least two breaths and return to your original position. Repeat.
Try using a fitness ball to vary your abdominal workout. Take a seat on a fitness ball, placing your feet about hip width apart on the floor. Straighten your back and rest your hands on your chest, much like with crunches. Squeeze the abs and slowly lean back. Hold for a breath or two and return to your original position. Repeat.
Engage your sides by incorporating a torso twist into this routine. Though many variations exists, the standard version has you standing in an upright position with a small weight in your hands. Rotate your torso to the right, return to center, then rotate to the left. Repeat.
Foods containing trans-fats are more likely to cause fat gain in the midsection than other foods, so cut this fat from your diet.
Check with your health-care provider before beginning an exercise program for the first time or if you have been away from fitness programs for a while, or if you have any chronic health issues.