Performing regular sessions of abdominal exercises may not be enough to obtain flat abs. You also need to maintain a healthy, balanced diet and perform regular sessions of cardiovascular exercise. Lowering your body fat and avoiding excess fat and calories will help you achieve flat abs. If you're overweight, your abdominal muscles will likely go unnoticed.
You may be at a healthy weight for your height and bone structure and still not sport flat abs. Go the extra mile and indulge in regular cardio and ab-specific exercises to help your cause.
Determining Your Healthy Body Weight
A healthy body weight can be determined in two ways — by measuring your waist and determining your BMI or Body Mass Index according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Take a tape measure and wind it around your waist. If it measures over 40 inches for a man or 35 inches for a female you are not only probably overweight; but in line for a whole slew of weight-related health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
Your BMI is determined very easily by plugging your height and weight into an online calculator such as the one found on the American Council on Exercise website. That being said, a fitness professional is qualified to assess your BMI as well.
Importance of Body Fat Percentage
Being at a healthy weight does not guarantee that your abdominal area will be flat. You also need to have a lower than average amount of body fat. Adult males are considered healthy with body fat between 18 and 24 percent and women, between 25 to 31 percent, reports the American Council on Exercise. But this may not show abdominal definition. Instead, men should aim for 6 to 13 percent and women, for 14 to 20 percent body fat. This is still considered healthy, and the leaner you are, the less body fat will cover your abdominals.
Read more: What Is a Good Body Fat Percentage?
Cardio and Ab-Centric Exercises
Perform cardiovascular exercise at a moderate to high intensity at least 150 to 300 minutes per week to obtain a healthy weight and lower your body fat says the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans. Choose an activity you enjoy that raises your heart and respiration rate.
Abdominal training can be done every day according to exercise scientist Dr. Len Kravitz writing for the University of New Mexico as the abs rarely get fatigued enough to require a day off. Choose a few different exercises that challenge your abdominals in different directions. Crunches on a stability ball, the captain's chair, the bicycle maneuver and reverse crunches are among the best choices for abdominal training.
Read more: 10 Easy Clean-Eating Recipes
Balance Your Diet
Diet is critical for developing flat abs. You need to eat a balanced diet of carbohydrates, proteins and fats that do not exceed your daily caloric need. If you eat too many calories you will gain weight and not see a toned midsection.
Also, your genetics are a consideration. If you tend to gain weight in your abdominal area first and lose it there last, it may be more difficult to obtain flat abs. Adjust your diet and exercise program if necessary. But take care not to lower your weight or body fat too low as this can negatively impact your health.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Assessing Your Weight"
- American Council on Exercise: "Tools and Calculators"
- Health.gov: “Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd Edition”
- University of New Mexico: “Superior Abs Resource Manual”
- American Council on Exercise: "What Are the Guidelines for Percentage of Body Fat Loss?"
- American Council on Exercise: Ab Exercises