Who doesn’t want flat abs? Flat abs contributes to a smaller waistline which, as you must know, is one of the benchmarks of beauty today. However, it’s not just the fashion magazines that will tell you to keep your tummy flat. Belly fat can actually raise your risk for certain health conditions too. So don’t be surprised if your doctor tells you that you need to go on a diet to lose the fat around your stomach.
Although flat abs is highly prized by most people, there is very few who actually get flat abs, fewer still who can maintain it. This is because getting flat abs is actually quite challenging. Belly fat is without a doubt the most stubborn kind – it is usually the last place where the weight will come off, even with a rigorous diet and exercise schedule. Getting flat abs actually requires immense self-discipline so it’s not for the faint of heart. If you think you have what it takes, then read on for your guide on how to get flat abs.
Busting the Myths
Before we get started on what it takes to get flat abs, let’s get rid of a couple of misconceptions about what it does not take.
Myth: Starving yourself or going on a very restricted diet will get you a flatter stomach.
Busted: This myth may have stemmed from the fact that you need to take in fewer calories than you burn to lose the weight around your belly. Starving simply puts your body in survival mode, which has the same effect as stress in lowering your metabolism. Starving yourself will reduce your waistline for the time being, but the weight will definitely return once you start eating again.
Myth: All you need to get flat abs are ab exercises.
Busted: If you were asked right now what the most effective exercise for flat abs is, you would most likely respond ‘crunches’. This is both right and wrong. Crunches do indeed help to build up stomach muscles but those muscles are well-hidden under layers of fat. So in effect, crunches do nothing to make your stomach any flatter. You first have to get rid of the fat that accumulates around the belly before those muscles will be seen. Crunches do not help to get rid of belly fat as there is no such thing as spot weight loss. You cannot lose weight in just one place and retain it in others. Fat loss occurs throughout the body at the same time. So while those crunches will do their bit to make your abs look sexy when they are finally revealed, you have to take several other steps to shed that extra fat around your mid-section.
Exercises for Flat Abs
As mentioned earlier, you can do crunches to build up ab muscles, but you have to resort to different types of exercises to trim that excess weight around your waistline.
The fastest way to lose weight is to do cardiovascular exercises. These include jogging, running, skipping, jumping, swimming, bicycling. All such activities raise your core temperature and the calories simply melt away. To burn fat around the belly, high intensity interval training or HIIT is best. This includes varying the speed of your workout from very fast to a medium speed. For example, if running is your cardio of choice then run as fast as you can until you run out of breath. Then stop and power walk till you feel like you’re ready for another sprint. Repeat this as often as possible for a period of about twenty minutes. This will burn more calories than a 45-minute jog at moderate speed. The same goes for the other types of cardio exercises – go really fast and then slow down till you catch your breath. Try to increase the number of cycles you can do in each progressive 20-minute period.
No, you do not need a gym or even weights to do strength training, although finding a good personal trainer to instruct you how to do the following exercises wouldn’t be a bad idea. There are hundreds of little things you have to remember about each exercise such as alignment or breathing which, if done improperly, can make the exercise less effective. You could even hurt yourself if you do not know how to protect yourself with proper alignment. Usually, the body has an innate sense of how something needs to be done so it falls into alignment quite naturally. However, this will only work if you are the type of person who listens to your body and are in tune with its needs. These are all pretty good reasons to find a qualified, reputed and genuinely-interested personal trainer to help you get the following exercises right.
- plank pose
- squats and lunges
- stomach crunches
- power yoga
- push ups and pull ups
- leg lifts
- handstands (if you are unable to do a full handstand, try doing half. This involves standing on your hands with your feet against the wall parallel to the floor. Your body should be in an inverted L.)
- side bends
Strength training will allow you to tone your body and build muscle overall. The more muscle you have the more calories you burn even while resting.
Weight training would not be amiss either. With these, it is best to at least initially learn how to do them right from a qualified instructor. Once you’ve got it, you can easily do them on your own at home without even having to buy the equipment. Cans of food, full water bottles and socks or small bags filled with rice all make excellent homemade weights.
Things that are More Important than Exercise
Exercise is undoubtedly one of the main ways to get flat abs, but it is not the only solution. In fact, mere exercise will not help you achieve your goal at all. There are several other aspects of your overall life which are more crucial to getting flatter abs.
Second in importance only to exercise, what you eat will play a huge role in whether or not you get flat abs. What, how much and when you eat are the main factors you have to look into if you want a flatter tummy.
- Cut out junk food altogether. They have nothing but empty calories, which will just cause your body to crave more food later on as it endeavours to get its daily dose of nutrition.
- Refined carbs like white rice and white bread are other food items that you should ideally be cutting down on if you want to get flat abs. Although you do need to eat well to sustain your workouts, white carbs are not the way to go as they are not very filling. Your body will gain more nutrition and thus be more satisfied with whole grained alternatives.
- Include more fruits and vegetables in your diet. If possible, try to eat more raw veggies. Cooking is known to cause a decrease in the enzymes of any food. This decreases its nutritional value. Raw food increases your metabolism plus it is actually easier for your system to digest. Raw foods are also fantastic detoxifiers. Here are some foods you can eat raw – all fruits, broccoli, cabbage, iceberg lettuce, cauliflower, cucumbers, spinach, seaweed and celery – and that’s just the tip of the raw food wagon.
- Avoid eating at least a couple of hours before you hit the sack. When your body knows it’s close to bedtime, it starts to slow down its system in preparation for sleep. This is the worst time to eat as your metabolism is at its lowest. Anything you eat will most likely just be stored as fat. Research is uncovering that meals eaten right before sleep will generally accumulate around the belly.
- You’ve probably heard this piece of advice before – increase the number of times you eat during the day, but decrease your portions. The smaller meals make it easier for your system to thoroughly digest the food, thus better metabolizing it. It allows your digestive system to work more efficiently and it is thought that the more frequent eating also increases your base metabolic rate.
- Beans and lentils are a very good source of natural protein and a host of other wonderful nutrients. Smaller amounts of both these foods will usually fill you up quicker plus satisfy your body’s nutritional needs. As we have seen, this means you will end up eating less overall which is crucial to getting flat abs.
- Drink more water. This not only fills you up but is also essential to boost both metabolism and digestion in addition to detoxifying your system and hydrating your organs – all these internal tasks are essential if you want flat abs. More health benefits of drinking water.
- Green tea and several other types of herbal tea have long been routed as effective fat burners. Be sure to have them without sweeteners or milk for best results.
It is a proven fact that stress causes fat to accumulate around the belly. When you are stressed, the body goes into fight or flight mode because it interprets your stress as a signal that you are being threatened. The body is designed to survive. So when it thinks you are under threat, it expends the majority of its energy into preparing you to either run away or stay and fight the threat. There’s no place for digestion and metabolism here, is there? So chill out if you want to get flat abs.
Another thing to remember is not to get too stressed out about getting flat abs. The process is a long one and cannot be hurried. It takes time, lifestyle changes and self-discipline. Plus, we’re all different. So you may take longer to get flat abs than someone else. Also, women will generally take longer to get flat abs than men as they have a higher percentage of body fat.
Those who do not get enough sleep are inevitably heavier than their well-rested counterparts. Lack of sleep is another factor that slows down your metabolism, thus negating all your efforts to get flatter abs.
Why do you want flat abs? After all, it’s not like those who have ripped six packs are healthier than those who don’t. So what is your motivation, your reason to embark on this tough journey? Are your reasons strong enough to sustain you mentally when the going gets tough? Believe it or not, it is mainly will power which keeps some people on the path to getting flat abs while causing others to quit midway with excuses. So if you really want flat abs, figure out why and make sure your reasons keep you motivated when you feel like you can’t take the discipline anymore.
However, even the most motivated people sometimes find it hard to trudge through the bad days. A time-tested way to remain motivated is to have a workout buddy – someone who wants to achieve the same goals as you do so that he/she will give you that little push you need to pick yourself up and move forward when you’re ready to give up. Here’s a tip to speed up your flat abs efforts – find a partner who is more motivated than you are. You’ll be motivated to push yourself harder to keep up with your buddy. But don’t pick someone who is so much more motivated than you that you get depressed and feel like you’ll never match up.
Keeping a journal about your journey to flat abs is another wonderful motivational tool. A journal helps you keep track of the progress you are making, the pitfalls that you faced, the triggers that cause you to not put in your best efforts. It will also help you see whether a certain food plan/exercise schedule/lifestyle change is working for you or not.
So now that you have everything to get flat abs, do you think you’re up to the challenge? Remember, your will power and your motivation can see you through anything. Let us know how you fare on your journey to flatter abs and don’t forget to post any ideas or suggestions we may have missed out on.