Ah, belly fat. We suck it in, conceal it with clothing, and wear special undergarments to disguise it. To completely rid ourselves of it, there is only one thing we can do: exercise and eat right. Not just any exercise will remove belly fat; however, only targeted abdominal exercises, paired with consistent cardio and healthy eating will really remove belly fat from your body. While men typically carry their belly fat in the upper part of their abdomen, women often have the “below the belly button pooch,” particularly after pregnancy. Here are some excellent abdominal exercises that will target female belly fat zones and help to get you swimsuit ready before summer.
Before performing any abdominal exercises it is important to warm-up and stretch your belly muscles. Start out with 2-3 minutes of simple cardio like jogging in place, aerobics moves, or light jump rope. This will warm your muscles and help prevent injury. Next, stretch your belly muscles. Laying flat on your stomach, put your palms on the floor and press straight up. Look up at the ceiling. This will stretch your muscles and ready your stomach for a great workout. Do this same stretch again at the end of your abdominal workout. Abdominal exercises should be performed three times a week with a day of rest in between workouts.
The Plank. This exercise, often used as part of a pilates workout, is an isometric abdominal exercise, meaning your muscles are held in a particular position for a period of time. To perform the plank abdominal exercise, lie flat on the floor on your belly. Next, rise up on your hands and toes being careful not to put your buttocks up in the air. Your goal is to keep your back flat throughout the exercise. Pull your stomach muscles in, as if someone is pulling on your belly button through your back. Hold this position for about 5 seconds. Lower yourself carefully to the floor. Repeat 5 times. If you want to increase the intensity of this exercise, while holding the plank position, lift one leg off the floor, return to the starting position, then lift the opposite leg. This exercise works the entire abdominal area, plus many other muscles!
Crossover Jabs. Most people are familiar with kickboxing workouts such as Tae-bo. A great abdominal exercise that works the sides of the waist, the oblique muscles, is a crossover jab. Many women want to define their waist more and this exercise, which combines cardio with abdominal toning, is great for creating waist definition. Standing with your feet slightly wider than your shoulders and your toes turned out, bend your knees so you are standing in a slight squat position. Holding your fists directly in front of your face, turn your waist to the left while punching straight out to the left with your right arm. Quickly turn to the right and punch with your left arm. Start out slowly then increase your speed until your are punching back and forth at a rapid pace. Do 5 sets of 20-30 second intervals of crossover jabs to work your waist and increase your heart rate.
Reverse Crunch. While few women (or men for that matter) enjoy doing abdominal crunches, the reverse crunch is a targeted exercise just for the lower abdomen, often a trouble spot for women. To perform the reverse crunch, lay on your back with your legs straight up in the air toward the ceiling. Carefully roll your hips up, lifting your buttocks off of the floor. Return to your starting position and repeat. Be very careful to keep your lower back pressed firmly into the floor while performing reverse crunches to keep from straining your back. Perform three sets of 10 reverse crunches, increasing to 3 sets of 15 after the first few weeks of regular abdominal exercises.
Push-ups. While we often think of push-ups as being an excellent arm and chest exercise, they are also great abdominal exercises. Like the plank, push-ups work your entire abdominal region, plus you get a great upper body and back workout while you’re at it! Exercises that efficiently work more than one part of your body at a time help keep your workouts short and to the point. To do a proper modified push-up (often called a women’s push-up), start with your hands and belly flat on the floor. Press yourself upward onto your knees. Do not put your buttocks up in the air! There should be a straight diagonal line from your neck to your knees, not a curved or arced one. Press all the way up, and all the way back down to the floor, slowly and controlled. Start with 3 sets of 10 repetitions. As you get stronger work for 3 sets of 15 and then 25 repetitions.
I have always been a pear-shaped woman with larger hips and a thighs and a more defined waist. These exercises help me to focus on my assets and keeping strong abdominal muscles wards off back pain and other ailments.
SPECIAL NOTE: E Harmon is not a doctor or an exercise physiologist. These exercise techniques are taken from years of personal experience with them. Always consult a medical professional before starting any fitness routine.