“Fast” and “flat” are relative. How “fast” you get a flat stomach will depend on a lot of things such as:
1. How much you exercise
2. What exercises you do
3. How old you are
4. What you eat
5. How much rest you get
6. The shape you are in when you start
7. The genes you inherited from you Mom and Dad
You get my point. Two people can start today to work on getting that flat stomach and one could be there in six weeks, and the other could take six months…or more.
“Flat” is going to vary a little from person to person…not only in what they CAN achieve with the right exercises and so on, but in terms of what they WANT to achieve. Some people want the six-pack abs ripped and shredded to the max, while some just want to stop drooping over the waistband of their bathing suit.
The 6 tips I am about to explain are basically what you need to accomplish either in a reasonable amount of time, but how far you get on your journey to the land of the flat stomach will depend on the factors mentioned earlier.
Tip 1: Stay hydrated. First of all, what you perceive as hunger is often actually thirst. Some people snack a lot because their bodies are crying out for water. Also, not drinking enough water can slow your basic metabolic rate, and that means that it is harder to burn the fat on your stomach. We’ll talk more about that later.
Tip 2: Get your rest. By this, I mean SLEEP!! Your body will respond best to ANY sort of exercise program from weightlifting to yoga if it gets the rest it needs. Not only will you be able to perform better after a good night’s rest, but it will help your body get on with the business of resculpting your muscles, wherever they may be.
Tip 3: Get the proper nutrition. This means not only the right foods, but in the right quantities at the right times. A tip inside this tip is to try to eat several small meals a day rather than two or three big ones. Foods should be high in protein, but don’t neglect the carbs. You need those for energy. Shoot for complex carbs. The rule of thumb is that the closer it is to natural, i.e. apple vs. apple pie, the more complex the carbs. Ice cream is NOT complex.
Tip 4: Exercise your stomach muscles. Your “stomach muscles” are actually made up mainly of three sets of muscles. Each one is in a different position, and has a different job to do. By the same token, developing each set of muscles will require you to do specific exercises for that set of muscles.
The three sets of muscles are the rectus abdominis (the six pack down the middle of your body from ribcage to groin), the transversus abdominus (TVA) which runs from back to front and holds everything in place, and the obliques (internal and external) which lie on the side.
Bad news: You’ve got to exercise each set of muscles.
Good news: No need to do ten thousand crunches a week. Pick your exercises and do each set of muscles twice a week. Start slowly with low reps and ease upward. Thirty reps per set with a couple or three sets might be all you need. I will only have room in this article for a couple of exercises, but you can find plenty on the internet.
Exercises for the rectus abdominis:
1. The crunch: You know this one, right? On your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor close to your buttocks. Put your hands beside your head or across your chest and curl your head and shoulders up toward your knees. You can increase the difficulty by holding a weight behind your head, putting your feet up on something, or by holding your feet in the air as you crunch. I recommend hands “beside” the head rather than “behind” as this may help prevent injury from pulling on the head and shoulders as you try to knock out a few more. Before you begin each crunch, try to flatten your lower back to the floor. When you have curled up to the maximum position, hold that position for a second and then try to curl just a little more. You might be surprised to find that you may be able to go just a little farther.
2. The reverse crunch: In basic crunches, you keep your feet and legs still while curling your head and shoulders up. In reverse crunches, you begin on your back with your hands at your sides on the floor with your knees elevated towards your chest. The movement is merely pulling (crunching) the knees towards your head while keeping head and shoulders in place.
Exercise the transversus abdominus:
The vacuum: Practitioners of yoga will recognize part of Cat Pose (Bidalasana) in the vacuum exercise. In fact, the movement can be done standing, hanging (by your hands of course), or on hands and knees as in the cat pose. It is pretty simple. You just slowly exhale, using your abdominal muscles to draw your navel in as far towards your spine as possible and hold for a few seconds and then let it go. Slowly build your way up to a couple of sets of twenty holds.
Exercise the obliques:
More good news! You really don’t want to work these incredibly hard unless you want a WIDE waist! While strong, healthy obliques are good to have, power lifters and people like that are the ones who will really WANT to develop their obliques to the max.
Side bends with dumbbells are probably the most common form of exercise for these muscles.
Exercise the entire core:
Again, a yoga pose, slightly modified, will help tighten and tone the entire core. Known in yoga as Plank pose and also called Abdominal Bracing, this is an easy to perform yet highly effective exercise when done over time.
Lie face down on the floor with your toes touching the floor as if you were going to do a pushup. Rest your upper body on your elbows with your forearms extended on the floor. Raise the center of your body so that it is in a straight line resting only on toes and elbows. Hold this position for as long as possible, up to a minute. At first, even a few seconds may seem like forever, but you should progress fairly rapidly with this one. Do it twice every couple of days.
Now, if it sounds like I sort of glossed over the exercise portion, that’s because the exercise is not really THAT important.
Having strong stomach muscles is of value, but the stomach muscles usually react favorably to regular, moderate exercise, and you don’t have to kill yourself to get strong stomach muscles. In fact, as fitness coach and competitive bodybuilder, Tom Venuto says in his great eBook, “Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle”:
“It’s entirely possible that you could have a GREAT set of abs that are completely covered up with fat, so you can’t see them!”
That’s why MOST people don’t have a flat stomach already! Whatever stomach muscles they have are covered over with fat.
ABDOMINAL EXERCISES DO NOT BURN FAT!
Cardio workouts, i.e. aerobic activities such as “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”, running, walking, biking, swimming, and similar activities burn fat. So….
Tip 5: Add cardio activity to your fitness program four to six times a week. Thirty to forty-five minutes would be good. Again, work your way up. When my wife first tried following Richard Simmons, she thought she was going to have a heart attack. She had to sit on the couch and wave her hands and try to wiggle her feet in motions something like what the people were doing on the screen. A few days later she could go through the whole routine…standing up and sweatin’ with the gang!
As great as cardio is, the fat burning effect lasts primarily during the exercise session itself, so here is the last tip to elevate your basic metabolic rate so that you are burning calories at a higher rate all day long.
Tip 6: Start weight training or other progressive resistance strength training. As you build muscle over all the parts of your body, you will be creating thousands of little tiny heaters that burn the fat day and night. You don’t have to use super heavy weights. An explanation of a basic weightlifting workout is a little too much to get into here, but many websites can point you in the right direction.
WON’T ALL OF THIS REQUIRE A LONG TIME EVERY DAY?
It’s a little bit beyond the scope of this article, but if you were to train half of your body with weights for 20 to 30 minutes on Monday and Thursday, and the other half on Tuesday and Friday, and then immediately follow each resistance workout with enough cardio activity to bring your total workout time to 45 minutes, you would spend about three hours a week actually working out. You can find time for additional walks or other strenuous activities throughout the week, or increase your workout time to 50 or 60 minutes a day if you are really dedicated and want to accelerate the process of getting a flat stomach fast
Donovan Baldwin is a freelance writer residing in Copperas Cove, Texas, and a University of West Florida alumnus. He is a member of Mensa and is retired from the U. S. Army after 21 years of service. In his career, he has held many managerial and supervisory positions. However, his main pleasures have long been writing, nature, health, and fitness. There is a collection of his articles on health, fitness, diet, and weight loss at http://nodiet4me.com/articledirectory and information on a free weightlifting workout plan at http://nodiet4me.com/articledirectory/free_weight_lifting_workout_plan.html
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