For those of you out there who are stressing about having a bikini-ready belly this summer, below are some tips about the best ways to strengthen your core.
"That's not an ab exercise, Hannah!" you are shouting. But cardio exercise is the first step to excavating that 6-pack of abs.
You can do all the sit-ups and strengthening moves that you want, but if you aren't also incorporating cardio activities three to five days a week, those stomach muscles will remain buried under that stubborn belly fat. Luckily for you, cardio comes in huge variety!
Not someone who likes to strap on their sweatbands and knee socks to hit the running track?
Don't stress! There are plenty of other things that you can incorporate into your day that will still give you a workout, get your heart pumping, and burn fat.
A few options that will ALSO strengthen your core at the same time:
Jumping jacks, jump rope or 180-degree squat jumps — all of these jumping moves will bring your heart rate up while engaging your stabilizing core muscles. Watch a demo here. Plan to do 3-4 rounds of 1-minute intervals with 30 second rest in between.
Mountain climbers or burpees — These two killer floor exercises will definitely make you huff and puff, but rely completely on strong core muscles. Remember to squeeze your belly during these moves, and try to do 3-4 sets of 45-second intervals, with 20-seconds rest in between.
Dancing — Yes! Think of this as permission to go out to the clubs. Turn up the music and show off your best moves. Or check out a Zumba class near you or online. These fun, sexy workout routines are a fantastic way to trick yourself into exercising.
Think about actively dancing for 30-40 minutes, to truly get a workout. And none of this stand-by-the-wall-and-nod-your-head kind of movement. Get your whole body out there!
Variation is the key to success when it comes to cardio. Mix it up so you don't get bored. This will make it easier to be active consistently.
Try out different strategies and intensities. Don't push yourself further than you (or your doctor) are comfortable with, but remember — a little sweat never hurt anyone.
2) Watch Your Menu
Put down those dumbbells that you are tempted to throw at my head! No, this is not an ab exercise, but your diet will most definitely have the most significant impact on your ability to show off stomach muscles.
Even if weight loss is not part of your goal, the fuel that you are putting into your body will determine how quickly you are able to build muscle and tone up.
I won't lecture here about everything you already know — eat lots of fruits and vegetables, limit your intake of junky, processed foods, etc.
But here's one thing to especially keep in mind when it comes to your belly:
Drink more water. Staying hydrated will not only allow you to work out more easily for a longer time, but will also help you to flush out any toxins, move waste through your body, and even boost your metabolism. (1)
Moreover, drinking water instead of a high-calorie, high-sugar beverages like soda or juice will help you to shave those non-nutritious extras out of your diet.
3) Walk More
Simple, I know. But the more steps you can take during the day, the more calories you are burning. Furthermore, taking a 20-minute walk can help to distract your brain from misleading cues.
Often our minds tell us that we are hungry when we are really just bored. Or sleepy. Or anxious. A quick walk can help you to shake off some of the mixed messages and identify what is truly an appetite and what is just your brain being bizarre.
4) Core Workout Moves
Here they are — the four most effective belly-busters that I have come across.
Remember that simply doing these all day, every day will not get you the results that you are hoping for! But when incorporated into a balanced routine with some cardio, some healthy foods and some fun (!), these exercises will help to slim and tone.
Each of these options incorporate at least two of your stomach muscle groups — lower, upper, obliques and back muscles. By engaging a combination of muscles, your core must work a little harder and your body burns more calories. This all contributes to a stronger and more toned middle.
Video links are included, in case you want to watch a demo of the exercise. Form is very important when doing core work, so I recommend watching!
Make sure you modify based on your comfort and ability! Build up to higher reps and be cognizant of your breathing throughout the workout.
Bicycle Kicks: These work all of your abdominal muscle groups — lower, upper and obliques.
Lemon-squeezers: These will target your lower abdominal muscles.
Plank Twists: These work your upper and lower abs and obliques.
Reverse sit-ups: These strengthen your lower abdominal muscles.
A final note to all you folks out there who are swimsuit-shy: The bottom line is that your body is ALREADY a perfect beach-bod! All you really need to change about your summer-self is your attitude.
Pick some clothes that make you feel awesome, strong and ready to enjoy some beautiful weather.
You are enough! Don't believe me? Learn from these experts about the best ways to wear a bikini in 2016.
Reviewed June 30, 2016
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith
1) "Water Induced Thermogenesis." Pubmed. Website accessed: 6/21/16.