There’s no shortage of ab exercise machines, fitness exercise programs that target the midsection, or late-night infomercials about toning and trimming the tummy. There are plenty of people ready and willing to tell you how to lose belly fat in exchange for your credit card number. The cold, hard truth is that you don’t need a special ab exercise machine (even if it does look and feel as comfortable as a hammock), and there’s no one magical ab workout that will suddenly accomplish what your half-hearted attempts at diet and exercise haven’t in the past. There are three keys to flat-ab success, and you can have them right here for the price of your time.
Step One: Get Your Cardio
Any fitness exercise program worth its salt includes aerobic exercise. That’s because getting your heart rate up and expending energy burns fat and calories. The goal is to burn more calories than you take in so that your body is forced to use up stored fat, including the flab affectionately known as your “love handles.” Military.com recommends doing cardio four to five times a week, for 20 to 45 minutes a shot. You know the drill: any activity that increases your heart rate such as biking, running, aerobics classes or working out on the treadmill or elliptical trainer. More is not necessarily better when it comes to duration or level of vigor. IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends two different approaches to maximize fat loss overall as part of a plan to lose belly fat:
- short, dynamic workouts, such as 30 minute HIIT sessions
- long bike rides or similar activities of 90 minutes to 2 hours during which your heart rate hits and maintains about 65 to 70 percent max HR
Step Two: Work Those Abs
There is no such thing as spot-reducing, but it is useful to perform abdominal exercises to strengthen and tone your core. Toned ab muscles give your midsection the flat look you desire–especially after you start losing the layer of fat that conceals your abs–and, when you work to develop those muscles, you can even get a six pack going if that’s what you want. The really terrific thing about ab workouts is that the best ab exercises without equipment are essentially the best ab exercises, period. For years, planks have been the ab workout darlings of many personal trainers, but the American Council on Exercise says that jacks, mountain climbers, and even side planks are more effective for working your abs from top to bottom and side to side. ACE actually did a study on ab exercises and found the most effective ones to be the bicycle maneuver and the captain’s chair (leg lifts). They’re both effective for working the obliques as well as the main ab muscles that run along the front of your torso.
In your impatience to lose belly fat and flatten your tummy, don’t work your abs every day. Your abdominals are just like every other muscle in your body, and they need recovery time between workouts. That doesn’t mean you can’t do ab exercises more than once a week. Just be sure to allow 48 to 72 hours between workouts.
Step Three: Get a Grip on Your Diet
Ack. There’s that four letter word. Again! Unfortunately, you cannot eat trash and expect to have a trim tummy. Remember the saying: what you eat in private, you wear in public — right around your middle. No one is saying you can’t eat food you like, just think “moderation.” That means limiting sweets and fried foods, choosing naturally low-fat cheeses over the creamy fat-filled ones, eating ample fresh veggies and fruits, and opting for lean meats instead of fatty ones. TargitFit’s never-fail extreme weight loss diet recommends cutting out soda altogether, but if you can’t go cold-turkey on the cola, wean yourself off, cutting back a little at a time until you’re off it entirely. Drink water instead as part of ensuring you get enough H20 each day. Try eating five smaller meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. If you get a grip on your diet and include both cardio and ab exercises in your routine, you’ll be sportin’ that six pack in no time.