Summer is right around the corner and that means that it’s officially time to leave those winter clothes behind. Good-bye chunky sweaters, bulky jackets, and forgiving leggings. Now is the time of year to get you back into the confident shape.
We’ve set this go-to guide on how to get your waist back. In order, to do that you need to focus both on working out your abs and also cleaning up your diet. Below find the best ab exercises to get that summer stomach. Along with a nutrition guide that will help you avoid that bloat and lose that belly fat.
Ab Exercises To Carve Your Stomach
When it comes to working your abdominal muscles, we tend to think of exercises such as sit-ups or crunches as the gold standard. However, these are actually not the most effective exercises for toning your abs and cinching your waistline. Sit-ups can actually place stress on the lower back and overwork your hip flexor muscles. The hip flexors run from the lumbar spine (lower back) and attach to the front of your thighs. When they are overworked or tight they can pull on the lower back and cause discomfort.
Research shows that it is much more effective to work your core using dynamic movements that work for multiple muscle groups simultaneously. Furthermore, it’s important to understand that your “core” does not just refer to your abdominal muscles but rather to all the muscles that support the spine (your abdominals, back, and lower body).
Ab Exercise #1: Forearm Plank
We begin this workout section with a famous abdominal and total body exercise: THE PLANK! If there is one single exercise that helps to flatten your stomach and improve my core strength, this is it!
Begin laying on your stomach: elbows under your shoulders, toes curled under, abs engaged. Lift your lower body up off the floor: focusing on drawing your navel in towards your spine along with squeezing your thighs and pressing back through your heels to distribute your weight evenly. Make sure you are not arching your back or sticking your butt up in the air. Maintain a neutral spine as shown.
Image Source: Men’s Journal
Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 3 times. Work your way up to 1 min as you get stronger!
Ab Exercise #2: Side Plank
Lay on your side with your body in straight line, elbow directly under your shoulder. Engage your abs while keeping your back straight, lift your knees and hips up off the floor. If you need to you can place one hand in front of you just to steady yourself. Hold this for 20 seconds. Repeat 3 times on each side.
Image Source: Men’s Journal
Work up to 60 seconds. If this is too much for you to start, you can modify this exercise and still get great results. To modify, simply bend your knees (keep the knees on the floor) and lift your hips up off the ground.
Ab Exercise #3: Superman
This exercise targets your back muscles which allow for improved core functioning and posture.
To perform lay on your stomach with your forehead resting on your mat so you are not straining your neck. Extend your arms out in front of you and relax the tops of your feet as shown. Draw your navel in towards your spine and lift your arms and legs up off the floor like “superman” while keeping your spine nice and straight. If this is too much for you or you are just starting out; begin with lifting opposite arm and leg first!
Image Source: Muscle & Fitness
Hold this for 5 seconds perform 3 sets of 15 reps.
Ab Exercise #4: Slow Mountain Climbers
Begin in a plank position with proper form. Wrists should be under your shoulders, abs engaged, squeeze your thighs and press back through your heels to take some of the pressure of your shoulders and distribute your weight evenly. Draw your navel in towards your spine as you bring one knee in towards our chest as though you are trying to touch your knee to your nose: you should feel your abs engage!
Image Source: Men’s Health
Repeat this on the opposite side for a total of 30 times.
Ab Exercise #5: Scissor Kicks
Lay on your back with your head resting on your mat and lower back pressed into the floor legs at a 90-degree angle as shown. Engaging your abdominals and keeping your back from arching slowly lower your legs towards the floor as you perform a scissoring motion (alternating crossing one leg over the other).
Image Source: Men’s Journal
Repeat this same movement as your return to starting position: That’s one rep. Repeat 10 times total.
Ab Exercise #6: Bridge
Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Engage your abs as you lift your hips up until your thighs are in a straight line with your torso squeezing your glutes at the top of the motion. Lower back down to start, that’s one rep.
Image Source: Yuri Elkaim
Repeat this for 3 sets of 12-15 reps.
Ab Exercise #7: Seated Twist with Medicine Ball
Hold on to a medicine ball or weight. Engage your abs by drawing your navel in towards your spine and sit back slightly so your spine is in a “C” curve position as shown. Moving from your core bring the weight to the right as your gently twist the spine. Bring yourself back to center and repeat to the left side; that’s 1 rep.
Image Source: Men’s Journal
Repeat this 15 times total for 3 sets.
Nutrition Rules That Reveal Killer Abs
So now that we have covered the ways to strengthen your abs, let’s talk about how you can blast that belly fat. The first step in saying goodbye to that winter pouch is to eat clean and eat mindfully. Here’re a few steps to get your belly and diet back into shape.
Nutrition Tip #1: Cut The Carbs, Keep The Fat
When John Hopkin’s researchers compared the effects on the heart of losing weight through a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat diet for six months—each containing the same amount of calories—those on a low-carb diet lost an average of 10 pounds more than those on a low-fat diet—28.9 pounds versus 18.7 pounds.
An extra benefit of the low-carb diet is that it produced a higher quality of weight loss, Stewart says. With weight loss, fat is reduced, but there is also often a loss of lean tissue (muscle), which is not desirable. On both diets, there was a loss of about 2 to 3 pounds of good lean tissue along with the fat, which means that the fat loss percentage was much higher on the low-carb diet.
Nutrition Tip #2: Watch Those Labels (Even The Healthy Ones)
Compare and contrast brands. Some yogurts, for example, boast that they’re low in fat, but they’re higher in carbs and added sugars than others. Foods like gravy, mayonnaise, sauces, and salad dressings often contain high amounts of fat and lots of calories. Even “healthy foods” like expensive granola, dressings dips, and snacks have heavy ingredients lurking.
Nutrition Tip #3: Eat That Protein
You know you’re supposed to eat more protein to lose weight, but you might not know exactly why. Well, it actually has to do with how your body handles insulin. “Your body starts to produce more insulin as you age, since your muscle and fat cells aren’t responding to it properly,” explains Louis Aronne, M.D., director of the obesity clinic at Cornell University.
This is what’s known as insulin resistance. Basically, when your body doesn’t respond well to insulin, it actually makes more of the stuff, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. And that can lead to fat storage, especially around the middle of your body. That’s where protein comes into play: A diet high in protein may protect you against insulin resistance, says Aronne.
Zeratsky suggests choosing lean cuts of meat and opting for poultry and fish to get your fill of protein. An even better option: plant-based proteins, like beans and lentils, which also serve up fiber and healthy carbs.
Nutrition Tip #4: Are You Forgetting About Fiber?
Also, Zeratsky suggests eating more soluble fiber to keep you fuller for longer, which keeps you from overeating. “Foods high in fiber slow your digestion and can help you manage hunger,” Zeratsky says.
In a 2012 study in the journal Obesity, subjects who increased their soluble fiber intake by 10 grams a day—the equivalent of two small apples, one cup of green peas, and one half-cup of pinto beans—reduced visceral fat by 3.7 percent after five years. Even more, participants who also engaged in moderate physical activity (exercising vigorously two to four times a week) experienced a 7.4 decrease in visceral fat over the same period of time.