Every woman dreams of having a slim and eye-catching figure. But, do all of our dreams come true? No! Not really. In today’s fast-paced life, when binge eating is an everyday affair, putting on weight seems inevitable. Adding to that is the total lack of exercise and sedentary lifestyle that lead to obesity and related diseases. Even if you are not really overweight, you are more than likely to have that small paunch on your stomach, which makes wearing those body hugging dresses a complete no-no! And this is not just an age related problem! Women of all ages—from a young teen to those in their 40s, all face this ‘fatty’ issue. So, why do we get this extra layer of fat around our tummy?
Factors That Lead To Unwanted Fat Gain
There are various factors that can lead to that unwanted paunch. Here are some of them –
When you are stressed, your body releases a hormone known as cortisol. This hormone has positive effects on the regulation of energy. However, it also plays an active role in the development of abdominal fat as it moves fat from storage deposits to the abdominal cavity. It helps to mature these fat cells.
According to a research, the amount of sleep you get each night may have an effect on the development and growth of fat in the abdomen. The study showed that individuals under 40, who slept for less than five hours or more than eight hours per night, added more abdominal fat over the time than those who slept for 5 and 8 hours.
During menopause, estrogen levels drop, which leads to a change in the way the body distributes fat. This further leads to the accumulation of fat in the abdomen.
Some constituents of food, such as sugars and simple carbohydrates get stored in the abdominal area easily than the other parts of the body.
When the thyroid hormone malfunctions, every system in the body slows down. People suffering from hypothyroidism feel tired, sleep a lot, suffer from constipation and gain weight around the abdomen area.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) occurs when the ovaries don’t make enough hormones for the eggs to fully mature. In this condition, weight gain is triggered by male hormones, which is typically present in the abs region.
These are just few of the reasons that can lead to increase in abdominal fat. Fat gain in the abdominal area can further lead to complicated multi-organ diseases. To keep these illnesses at bay and to flaunt a gorgeous and shapely figure, it is essential to include a few exercises that work on the core abdomen and not just few abdominal muscles.
Benefits Of Abdominal Exercises
Here are some benefits you can expect from the exercises
- Strengthens and tones abs muscles
- Tone and tighten upper abs naturally
- Improves mental health
- Makes one feel relaxed and calm
- Releases harmful toxins from body in the form of sweating
- Helps to lose fat from around your core abs muscles
- Everyday tasks become easy
- A healthy and flexible lower back
- Superb figure
- Good posture
- Better digestion
- Solves PCOS problem
- Flat belly
- Body feels better
- Improves thinking
- Loses menopause fat on your waistline
- Stress prevention
[ Read: Effective Twist Exercises For Your Abs ]
Every woman wishes to have a tummy that’s flat, feminine, toned and taut. Don’t you agree? If you have always fallen short of your dream of having a flat, toned and sexy tummy, read on to know right way to work out.
Abs Exercise for Women
1. Abdominal Hold
1. Sit on the edge of a chair.
2. Keep your hands on the edge and make sure that your fingers are pointing toward your knees.
3. Tighten your abdomen muscles and bring toes few inches off the floor.
4. Try to lift your bottom off the chair.
5. Hold this position for as long as you can.
6. Lower yourself down and repeat this step.
7. Continue this exercise for approximately one minute.
1. Lie down on the mat with your face upwards and hands behind the head. Support your head with the fingers.
2. Lift your leg and slowly bring your knees closer to the chest. Now take off the shoulder blades above the floor. Remember not to pull off your neck, as this may cause a sprain.
3. Turn yourself towards the left, slowly bring your right elbow to the left knee and straighten the right leg.
4. Now do this vice-versa. Bring the left elbow touching the right knee.
5. Keep doing this exercise in a ‘pedalling’ motion. You can repeat 1-3 sets in 12-16 reps.
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3. The Side Crunch
Here’s another twist on the classic crunch for working your abdominal muscles.
1. Kneel and lean to your right side by placing right palm on the floor.
2. Keep your weight balanced and slowly extend the left leg and point your toes.
3. Place your left hand behind your head, pointing your elbow toward the ceiling.
4. Then slowly lift your leg to hip height as you extend your arm above your leg, with palm facing forward.
5. Look above your hand while bringing the left side of rib cage toward your hip.
6. Go back to the starting position and repeat 6 to 8 times by constantly changing sides.
4. Captain’s Chair
cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by U.S. Army
1. Stand straight on the strong chair. Tightly grip your handholds and balance the upper body.
2. Push your back towards the pad and relax your shoulders.
3. Slowly bend your knees and pull the abs. Take your knees till the hip level.
4. Avoid arching the back or swinging your legs upwards.
5. Steadily put the lower back down to the same position. You can repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
The captain’s chair leg raise is done in many gyms. This works well for the rectus abdominis and obliques. In case you don’t have a captain’s chair rack, this exercise can also be done with the help of a pull up bar, abs straps or ball roll out.
5. The Hundred
This exercise will leave you breathless. And when done repeatedly, it will also leave you with a trimmer midsection!
1. Lie on your back, keep your knees bent and keep your palms down.
2. Exhale and raise your head and shoulders above the floor.
3. Vigorously pump arms up and down with the help of your fingertips.
4. Try to breathe in for 5 pumps, and then breathe out for another 5 pumps. Don’t forget to bring your chin closer towards your chest.
5. Encourage yourself to do 100 pumps, or 10 full breaths.
6. Manage to keep your lower body as close to the floor as possible and keep lower abs pulled in towards the spine.
7. You can also stretch your legs upwards for added intensity.
6. Opposite Arm And Leg Raise
If you lack coordination, you may find this exercise a little difficult.
1. Place the knees under your hips and wrists under your shoulders.
2. Raise the left arm to the height of your shoulder and left leg to the height of your hip.
3. Hold and try to reach forward with your fingers and back with the help of your heels.
4. Redo this step on the opposite side as well.
5. Do 15 to 20 reps on alternating sides.
[ Read: Top 10 Workout Videos ]
7. The Prone Plank
Try this classic exercise and you’ll soon see your abs firming up.
1. Keep your palms on the floor beneath your shoulders while being in a full push up position.
2. Hold for 30 seconds. While doing so, see to it that your abs are contracted, arms and legs are extended and your head is aligned with your spine.
3. With time, try to stay in this position for around one minute.
After mastering this, you can also try one-arm stable switching plank.
8. Ball Crunch
You’ll need a ball for this one, so ask you instructor for help.
1. Lie on a big ball.
2. Cross arms over your chest or keep them behind your head.
3. Contract abs to lift your upper body off the ball by pulling the bottom of your ribcage down toward your hips.
4. As you curl up, keep the ball stable.
5. Lower your back down, get a stretch in the abs, and repeat for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
An exercise ball is the best method for abs strengthening. This can also be used for floor crunches and is available in most of the gyms these days.
9. Vertical Leg Crunch
Crunches are good for your whole body. And, the vertical leg crunch is a great way to help lose abdominal fat and work those muscles.
1. Lie on the floor and extend legs up straight with knees crossed.
2. Place hands behind head for support.
3. Contract abs to lift the shoulder blades off the floor, as if reaching your chest towards your feet.
4. Keep the legs in a same position and bring your belly button towards your spine at the top of the movement.
5. Repeat 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
10. Torso Track
1. Tightly hold the handles of the Torso Track. Contract your abs and remember to hold in your breath.
2. Exhale your breath and glide till you are comfortable.
3. If your back feels uncomfortable in the middle, slow done the procedure for back protection.
4. Pull the body back by contracting the abs.
You can always add more tension chords to increase intensity. The Torso Track can be substituted with the abs roll out over the ball.
[ Read: Hamstring Exercises And Their Benefits ]
11. Long Arm Crunch
1. Lie down on a floor mat by extending your arms straight on the back of your head. Keep your hands clasped and arms to the ears.
2. Pull your abs and lift your shoulder blades above the floor.
3. Try to keep your arms straight and don’t strain the neck.
4. Come back to the normal position. You can do 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps each.
5. Add more intensity with a dumbbell.
This exercise is similar to the traditional floor crunch, but this also strengthens the arms. It is little more difficult than the traditional floor crunch. It also strengthens the upper part of the abs.
12. Reverse Crunch
1. Lie down on the floor mat by placing your hands on the floor. You can also put them behind the head.
2. Slowly bring the knees towards the chest, slightly crossing the 90 degress angle. You can keep your feet together or crossed.
3. Pull your abs in and take off the hips above the floor when your knees reach the closest possible to your chest.
4. Slowly retract your knees and come back to initial position. You can do 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps each.
Let the abs lift your hips. Don’t swing the legs. This exercise strengthens the rectus abdominis.
13. Crunch With Heel Push
1. Lie down on the floor mat on the back. Keep the knees bent and your hands should be to touch your heels.
2. Pull the feet from your abs. Lift your shoulder blades above the floor.
3. Avoid pulling off the neck.
4. When you are at the top of the crunch gently press the heels to the floor. Push your back towards the mat and raise the glutes slightly above the floor.
5. Come back to the normal position. You can repeat this for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
This is most effective on the rectus abdominis muscles.
14. Ab Roller
1. Sit on your Ab Roller and hold the bars with both hands.
2. Pull the abs and move forward.
3. Come back to the normal position. You can do this for 1-3 sets of 12-16 reps.
Do this slowly for momentum reduction. Focus on your abs and not pushing the arms. This equipment supports the neck and arms, hence reducing the risk of causing a neck sprain. You can substitute Ab Roller with other core exercises.
1. Lie on the floor mat with your face down. Fold your elbows at a 90 degrees angle and stretch your forearm beyond your head.
2. Push towards the floor and rise till only the toes and elbows touch the floor.
3. Your back should be parallel to the ground.
4. Slightly tilt the pelvis and pull in the abdominals. This will avoid the rear end sticking in the air. They even prevent sagging in the middle.
5. Hold yourself in this position for 40 to 60 seconds.
6. Come back to the normal position. You can do this for 3-5 reps.
This is an excellent exercise to tone up your abs and back muscles.
[ Read: Barbell Exercises For Women ]
Practice this X-abs exercise to get those flat abs.
1. Start by lying on your back with arms and legs extended, straight up to the ceiling and head resting on the floor.
2. Open your arms and legs into an ‘X’ shape by bringing the legs just above the floor, and arms back by the ears.
3. Then bring legs and arms back together, lift your head off the floor, press arms outside of hips, and lift hips off the ground as your legs come in towards your head.
4. That’s one rep. Repeat this exercise 20 times for best results.
17. Twisted Sit-up
Sit ups are universal favorites and form a part of many a workout regimes. And when you twist it up, you get those flat abs.
1. Lie down on your back.
2. Bend knees to a comfortable position and lock your hands behind your head.
3. Curl your head, shoulders, upper and lower back off the floor and angle your left elbow toward your right knee.
4. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
5. Slowly return to the starting position.
6. Curl your head, shoulders, upper and lower back off the floor and angle your right elbow toward your left knee.
7. Hold this position for 5 seconds.
8. Slowly return to the starting position.
9. Repeat 10 times by alternating the twisting motion.
18. Knee Tuck
This is one of the best lower abdominal exercises. Practice this knee tuck exercise to get those killer abs.
1. Lie down on back with knees bent, arms stretched overhead with palms facing ceiling.
2. Raise knees up towards your torso.
3. Exhale and then return to the starting position.
4. Do 20 reps.
19. The Ballet Twist
You don’t need to be a ballerina to do this exercise. But, you do need a level of flexibility to do it right.
1. Lie on the floor with legs slightly bent.
2. Raise your torso up and twist to one side.
3. Hold your twist for a few seconds then go back to lying down and repeat on the other side.
4. Do sets of 15-20 reps.
20. The Single-Leg Stretch
This exercise is easy, convenient, and effective.
1. Lie back and bend the knees.
2. Lift your head and shoulders and curl your chin in, more toward your chest.
3. Inhale as you pull your left knee toward your chest by placing your left hand on ankle and right hand on knee.
4. Lift the right leg to about 45 degrees off the floor.
5. Switch legs, extend the left leg while hugging the right leg to the chest.
6. Switch hand positions each time you switch legs, place right hand on right ankle and left hand on right knee.
7. Do around 5 to 10 reps for each side.
21. The Cobra
1. Lie face down on the floor with palms near your chest.
2. Lift your head, shoulders, and chest off the floor by pulling shoulder blades down and together.
3. Hold for 2 counts and lower your back down.
4. Repeat 8 to 10 times.
5. For a more difficult workout, try to lift your thighs and hips off the floor.
22. Squat Thrust With Twist
Squats are ever popular and for a reason.
1. Stand by keeping your feet and shoulder width apart and also extend your arms at shoulder length.
2. Start by bending knees to about 90 degrees, and twist your upper body to the left side.
3. Try to come up and then repeat this exercise to the right.
4. For better results, try to keep your weight on your heels.
23. Scale Pose
This is an amazing pose for working your tummy muscles.
1. Sit cross-legged and place your hands on the mat.
2. Tighten your pelvic area, push your hands towards the floor, and lift your entire lower body off the floor.
3. Hold for 3 breaths and then lower your back down.
4. A challenging move, so in case you can’t lift your whole lower body, keep your feet on the ground and just lift your butt.
5. Do 3 repetitions.
[ Read: Benefits Of Ab Doer Twist Exercises ]
Most of us believe that crunches are the best option. But, that’s not true. Crunching isn’t the best abs workout. They tone only the front and side muscles of the stomach. It doesn’t tone all the muscles for perfect abs like the hips, lower back, and upper thighs. Some core stabilization exercises such as plank help to lose belly fat, tone abs, train muscles, balance spine and pelvis. This is also effective to reduce back pain and improve posture. It is useful to burn calories even more than crunches, as they include more muscle work.
The exercises listed stimulate your metabolism and thus, help to burn the hiding fat in the abs. Start slowly at an easy pace without maximum intensity effort. Always start with an easy 5 to 10 minutes warm-up exercise and cool down yourself at the end. For this, you can try running, cycling or cardio as per the preference.
Remember to stay motivated and don’t get discouraged or stop in between. Getting those perfect abs will surely take some time. Have patience to tone and flaunt them. Here are few myths about abdominal exercises that have been demystified for you.
Myths About Abdominal Exercises
Myth 1: For better results, you need to exercise your abdomen daily!
Fact: This is absolutely wrong. The rectus abdominis (abs) is a muscle just like our biceps and triceps. Intense training is harmful, and the muscles need proper rest to regenerate and recover. Never exercise abs for more than three alternate days in a week.
Myth 2: Just abdominal workout is enough to have a flat belly!
Fact: This is definitely a myth. In order to have flat abs, you need to exercise your whole body. Spot fat reduction around the belly happens only in fairy tales. So, if you want a perfect tummy, you need to lose weight from all the parts of your body.
Myth 3: Just crunches are enough!
Fact: This is a common myth with beginners. Most of us think that only crunches are enough to lose all the saturated fat around the stomach. This is not true. No matter how many crunches you do in a day, it will be of no help by itself. You definitely need to pair it with other exercises.
Myth 4: Exercising is the only way to lose weight!
Fact: This is true that exercising is one of the most significant ways to lose weight around abs. But it is very crucial to eat light and balanced meals five to six times a day. This will improve the basic metabolism and speed up the weight reduction process leaving you with a toned and fit tummy.
Put those moments behind where you were ashamed of your paunch and bulging tummy. Be patient and regularly try a combination of exercises from this list to get that perfect set of abs. Soon, you will no longer have to shy away from those figure-hugging clothes. No longer will you have to buy large size clothes to hide your protruding potbelly. These exercises are practical and doable for women of all ages. But remember, do not exert yourself and consult a doctor in case you suffer from neck or back problems.
Do let us know what worked for you in the comments section below.