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Cardio and strength training exercises whittle your middle.
Tight, toned abdominal muscles are something many people wish they had. Isometric ab exercises -- or tightening the stomach muscles -- can help you tone them, but it won't help you get rid of belly fat. Spot-reduction exercises are ineffective; a combination of aerobic and muscle-toning exercises, along with a calorie-reduced diet, will help you get the buff abs you desire.
Move It and Lose It
Heart-pumping cardiovascular exercise is necessary to help you lose fat. Although you can't lose fat exclusively around your belly, you can lose it all over, leading to a slimmer abdomen. Perform between 150 to 300 minutes of cardio exercise per week. Burning 250 to 500 calories per hour each day with aerobic exercise will help you lose a half pound to one pound per week. Get your sweat on with cardio exercises that also engage your abdominal muscles for a more efficient workout. Swing your arms as you walk briskly to burn 250 calories per hour. Swimming, jogging and rowing will help you burn approximately 500 calories per hour while also engaging the muscles of your midsection.
Isolate Your Abs
Tightening your abdominal muscles without moving any joints or changing the muscle's length is a type of isometric exercise. Isometrics are particularly helpful to those recovering from an injury or dealing with a chronic condition. While they can help maintain strength, they're not as effective for building muscle as regular strength training. Even so, you can add an isometric ab exercise to your routine. Lie on your back or sit up straight in a chair. Place your hands lightly on your abdominals and cough to feel the muscles contract. Repeat that contraction for 30 to 60 seconds without coughing. You can do this exercise while at your desk or in the grocery store line -- no one will even know you're exercising.
Firm with a Twist
As you lose weight from cardio exercise, you can tighten your abdominal muscles with strength training exercises. Two to three weekly strength training sessions that last 15 to 20 minutes are sufficient for building muscles. These two ab exercises with a twist -- the bicycle crunch and trunk rotations -- will tone your abdominal muscles and cinch your waist as they work your oblique muscles along the sides of your midsection.
Lie down with your backside to the floor to do the bicycle crunch. Place your fingertips behind your ears with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor as you also bring your knees up above your pelvis to get into the starting position. Twist your torso to the left to point your right elbow toward your left knee. Simultaneously bring your left knee toward your right elbow as the right leg is extended straight out. Return to the starting position. Repeat on the other side by bringing your left elbow toward your right knee while extending your left leg straight ahead. Use your ab muscles to lift and twist your torso, rather than trying to lift yourself up with your fingers. Your leg movements will simulate pedaling a bicycle.
Perform trunk rotations by sitting on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Keep your upper body straight and look ahead as you lean back about 45 degrees. Draw in your ab muscles as you sit up and reach your arms past the outside of your left knee. Your feet should remain on the floor and your knees bent throughout the exercise. Return to the starting position with control, and then repeat by twisting to right side. Perform 12 repetitions on each side.
The Food Factor
The types and quantity of food that goes into your body also plays a role in your ability to lose weight. Trim 250 to 500 calories from your diet each day to lose an additional half to one pound weekly. Consume foods that will fuel your body with energy and provide it with important nutrients. Eat lean protein sources, whole grains, fresh produce and low fat dairy. Drink eight glasses of water daily to avoid dehydration, which often masks itself as hunger.