When combined with a healthy diet and cardio exercise, stomach-flattening exercises can help give you those toned abs you've been hoping for. Go beyond the traditional crunches (though those work, too!) and get quicker results. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, the following exercises will give you the flat stomach and toned abs you want.
Studies on the Best Stomach Flattening Exercises
The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is an educational organization for group exercise instructors and personal trainers. Since many fitness participants are interested in flattening their bellies, ACE decided to fund a study that examined the benefits of the various types of abdominal exercises. The following exercises requited the maximum number of abdominal fibers.
The Bicycle Maneuver
- Lie flat on your back with your lower back pressed into the floor.
- Place the tips of your fingers along the side of your head, right above your ears.
- Elevate your legs to a 45-degree angle and begin a bicycle pedaling motion.
- Bring your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. The opposing hip should stay flat on the floor.
- Perform 20 repetitions or 10 twists to each side.
Stability Ball Crunch
The stability ball has an added benefit. Since it challenges your balance, it requires you to recruit your deep core muscles.
- Sit on the ball with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
- Lie back until your thighs are parallel to the floor with your butt, back and shoulder blades on the ball.
- Place your fingertips in the same position used for bicycle maneuver. Begin with a small nod of the head, while you inhale to prepare.
- As you exhale, draw your belly towards your spine and lift your shoulder blades to a 45-degree angle. You can also work your obliques, by rotating your torso from side to side.
- Perform 10 repetitions of the straight crunch and 16 repetitions, or eight to each side of the oblique exercise.
Additional Exercises for a Flatter Stomach
The following exercises are not a part of the study, but have been shown to be effective for flattening abs. Maintaining proper form is very important with each of these exercises in order to get results and prevent injuries.
Crunches are the most commonly-performed abdominal exercises for a reason. Without any equipment, you can do crunches that work your entire abdominal region.
- To perform a proper crunch, lie on your back with your low back pressed flat against the floor and your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor.
- Place your fingertips lightly behind your neck.
- Now imagine that you have a rope attached to your chest, pulling your chest up towards the ceiling.
- Using your abdominal muscles, lift through the chest until you feel a contraction in your abs, and then lower yourself back down. Do not pull on your neck or use your legs and hip flexors to perform the exercise.
Regular crunches work your rectus abdominis and your transverse abdominis. If you lower your legs to either side and repeat the motions, you can also work your internal and external obliques. Opt for two or three sets of 10 to 15 crunches in each position, performed about three times per week.
Captain's Chair Exercise
Captain's chair exercises strengthen your rectus abdominus and your transverse abdominus. They require a specialized piece of equipment that is available at most gyms.
- To perform the captain's chair exercises, hang by your forearms from the captain's chair and bend your knees towards your chest in a controlled manner.
- Lower them using the same level of control.
- Repeat the desired number of times.
Secrets to a Flat Stomach
Abdominal exercise is only one of the tools used to achieve a flat stomach. In fact, it plays a minor role. A flat stomach depends on the food that you eat, burning the fat from that food, postural alignment and hydration. Eating excess fat will create abdominal fat.
As you get older, an inactive lifestyle will result in the excess accumulation of belly fat. Aerobic exercise can counteract this tendency, but be sure to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes your body to store water, which in turn creates abdominal bloat. Unfortunately, even the best diet and aerobic exercise program cannot undo the negative effects of poor posture on the abdominal area. If you stand with an arched back, or if you tend to slouch, your stomach will never look flat, even if you only have a minimal amount of body fat.
You Can't Just Spot Tone
Remember, you can't spot tone. All the stomach-flattening exercises in the world won't give you a sculpted midsection if it's buried under a layer of fat that needs to be burned off. Incorporate high-intensity interval training and eat a diet full of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables for the best results.