Many people think that getting a lean, muscular midsection means performing endless sit-ups. In fact, achieving a toned stomach is a multi-step process, of which abdominal exercises are just one facet. To truly tighten your stomach area, you should begin by adopting a regular routine of toning moves such as the bicycle crunch, the reverse crunch, and the plank. In order to make the fruits of your toning labor visible, you should also combat excess fat by getting plenty of cardiovascular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet.
Start your quest for a toned stomach by choosing a few exercises that challenge and strengthen the muscles of the midsection. For best results, try to include at least one move that works both the “six-pack” and the muscles of the waist, known as the obliques. Aim to perform two sets of your toning routine four times each week.
The bicycle crunch targets the entire midsection, and is thus a good choice for those seeking a toned stomach. To perform this move, lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands held loosely at your ears, and then draw your left leg in toward your chest while extending your right leg. At the same time, raise your neck and shoulders slightly and twist your torso so that your right elbow points toward your left knee, and then switch sides. Continue this movement for 12 to 15 repetitions, switching from side to side so your legs are performing a smooth pedaling motion.
Another good toning move is the reverse crunch, which works the “six-pack” from top to bottom. Begin this move by lying on the floor with your arms at your sides and your legs raised to form a 90 degree angle with your chest. Use your abdominal muscles to raise your hips away from the floor, lower, and repeat 12 to 15 times. While this movement is subtle, when performed correctly it should be felt in your lower abdominal muscles.
Also useful in achieving a toned stomach is the Pilates-based plank move, which targets both the abdominal muscles and the back. To start this move, lie face down and then use your forearms and toes to raise your body off the floor. Engaging your abdominal muscles, attempt to hold your body in a straight line for 30 to 60 seconds. Your weight should be distributed between your elbows and your toes, and your midsection should not droop toward the floor.
In addition to your abdominal exercise routine, you should seek to rid your body of excess fat. Without this step, even the most toned stomach muscles can remain buried beneath a gut. Thus, you should blast fat by getting regular cardiovascular workouts and maintaining a healthy diet.
Cardiovascular exercise is basically any activity that elevates your heart rate for a sustained period of time and, as a consequence, burns calories. Choose activities you enjoy, such as biking, jogging, hiking, swimming, or even just walking briskly. Attempt to perform one of these activities for 45 to 60 minutes, three to four times weekly.
Healthy eating should form the final step of your toned stomach plan. Attempt to combat fat by maintaining a diet high in craving-busting fiber and rich in fruits, vegetables, and other unprocessed foods. Seek to limit your daily food intake to approximately 1,500 to 2,000 calories.