The plank is a core strengthening exercise that works the transversus abdominis muscle. Because you cannot spot reduce body fat, you must work to lose fat throughout your entire body. The most effective way to do this is through diet, aerobic exercise and strength training.
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The transversus abdominis muscle is the innermost abdominal muscle used to support and stabilize your torso during isometric contractions. Although, the exercise will burn some calories, its primary purpose is to strengthen your midsection, which might help improve posture and reduce low back pain. Start by lying facedown on the floor with your feet together. Press up onto your forearms, positioning your elbows under your shoulders. Raise your hips from the floor and balance your body weight between your forearms and your toes. Contract your abs and hold the position, keeping your body flat and rigid for at least 30 seconds. Practice the plank every day for two or three sets, gradually increasing the duration of the hold.
Controlling your diet is a significant component to losing body fat. The most effective way to do this is by eating small meals five or six times daily to keep your metabolism elevated and prevent overeating. Consume a serving of green vegetables, protein and fat in each meal. Lean protein sources include eggs, chicken breast, fish, lean beef or low-fat dairy. Healthy fats include nuts, seeds, and olive or canola oil. Include a serving of fruit in one or two meals a day, and consume starchy carbohydrates such as potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa only in your first two or three meals of the day when you are most active and can burn off the energy.
Aerobic exercise helps burn excess calories and reduce overall body fat levels. Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise five days a week, such as brisk walking, cycling, elliptical or low-impact aerobics. You can break the 30 minutes up into two or three shorter segments throughout the day if necessary. Over time, you might need to increase the duration or intensity of exercise for continued fat loss results.
Strengthening helps to burn body fat by burning calories during the activity, but also by building muscle tissue. Adding just 1 lb. of muscle tissue can burn up to 50 extra calories per day. Strength train at least three times a week on nonconsecutive days, targeting all the main muscle groups and using compound exercises. Compound exercises burn more calories and are more effective at stimulating muscle growth than single-joint isolation exercises. Include compound exercises in your routine, such as dead lifts, lunges, squats, bench press, military press, pushups and pullups. Additionally, include some isolation exercises to help strengthen weaker muscle areas. The reverse crunch, leg raises and planks are examples of isolation exercises for the stomach.
Strength Training Program
A sample program might include training your chest and back on Monday, legs and abs on Wednesday and shoulders and arms on Friday. Select a heavy enough weight for each exercise so that muscle fatigue occurs between eight and 12 repetitions for three or four sets. Keep the intensity high and burn more calories by keeping rest periods between sets to 60 seconds or less.
- American Council on Exercise; Trimming Off The Fat
- ExRx.net; Toning with Weights
- "Oxygen" magazine; Sculpt Sexy Abs; Rachel Crocker, Stacy Kennedy; March 2011