The Top 3 Exercises To Achieve A Flat Stomach

Written by on May 14, 2013 in Health - No comments | Print this page

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Flat StomachA flat stomach… Who doesn’t want one? A flat stomach, or core, is a key component to a youthful figure and appearance, in addition to improving postural imbalances and athletic performance. More importantly, strong abdominals (core muscles) are necessary for providing important physical capabilities, such as:

  • controlling movements
  • creating a solid base of support
  • distributing the stresses of weight bearing
  • generating powerful movements of the extremities
  • moving in any direction
  • moving on two feet
  • protecting the back
  • shifting body weight
  • stabilizing the spine, pelvis, and shoulder girdle
  • standing upright
  • transferring energy

The core consists of several different muscles that stabilize or support the spine and pelvis. These muscles run the entire length of your torso and trunk. Abdominal (core) exercises are most effective when they engage several of these muscles simultaneously.

Below are 3 of the top core training exercises for achieving a flat stomach, along with instructions for performing them safely and correctly.

#1 Crunches

The abdominal wall is pulled flat when it contracts. The crunch is one of the most basic exercises for core training because it is relatively easy to do and causes the abdominal wall to contract. Follow these steps to perform a basic crunch:

1. Lie flat on your back on the floor.

2. Place your feet flat on the floor or rest them on a bench with you knees bent at a 90 degree angle. If you choose to rest your feet on a bench, place them three to four inchesapart and point your toes inward so they touch.

3. Place your hands lightly on either side of your head,elbows pointed outward to each side.Keep your hands apart. Do not lock your fingers behind your head.

4. Roll your shoulders off the floor while pushing the small of your back down to the floor to create better isolation of your abdominal muscles.

5. Continue to push down as hard as you can with your lower back while simultaneously contracting your abdominals and exhaling. Your shoulders should come up off the floor about four inches only. Your lower back should remain on the floor.

6. Contract your abdominals hard at the top of the movement. Hold the contraction for a second.

7. Inhale and return slowly to the starting position as you do so.

8. Repeat the recommended number of repetitions.

Variations

The crunch has several variations. For example, you can perform crunches.

  • on a decline bench
  • on an exercise ball
  • with weights

Best Practices

Remember to focus on slow, controlled movement when performing crunches. You cheat yourself when you use momentum. Additional tips to consider for maximizingthe effectiveness of crunches include the following:

  • Perform a vacuum. Performing a vacuum by pulling and keeping your stomach in while crunching. To do this, imagine you are pulling your belly button through your lower back.
  • Perform a Kegel. A Kegel is the contraction you make to stop urine flow or squeeze your insides.
  • Maintain the vacuum and the Kegel for the duration of each set of crunches you perform. If at any time you lose one or the other, reengage for the next repetition.

#2 The Bicycle

Studies show that the bicycle, or bicycle crunch, is one of the best exercises for strengthening the obliques (core muscles located on the side and front of the abdomen) and rectus abdominus (core muscles located along the front of the abdomen, also know as the “six pack”). Follow these steps to perform a basic bicycle or bicycle crunch:

1. Lie flat on your back on the floor.
2. Press your lower back to the floor.
3. Place your hands lightly on either side of your head,elbows pointed outward to each side. Keep your hands apart. Do not lock your fingers behind your head.
4. Bring your knees up to approximately a 45 degree angle.
5. Move in a bicycle pedaling motion, slowly touching your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee.
6. Move in a deliberate, slow, controlled manner.
7. Repeat the recommended number of repetitions on each side.

#3 The Plank

The plank is an excellent warm up exercise. It engages all the core muscles. Follow these steps to perform a basic plank:

  • Balance your body on your elbows and toes with your back straight.
  • Keep your torso straight and rigid. Keep your body in a straight line from ears to toes. Do not let your midsection sag or bend.
  • Hold this position for 15 to 60 seconds.

The bicycle has several variations. For example, you can increase the intensity and difficulty of the bicycle exercise by.

  • alternating lifting one arm out in front and holding for 10 seconds
  • alternating lifting one foot out in back and holding for 10 seconds

Written by Diane Walters. She loves working out and exercising. She often reads fitness magazines and watch exercise videos on her spare time. 

Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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