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A flat
Get your dream abs with our
ultimate tummy tone-up plan
f you long to show off toned abs and a perfectly flat stomach this summer,
you’re not alone. Our tummies are often our most hated body part and,
sadly, the one we find hardest to get into shape, especially after the rigours
of pregnancy or the pull of gravity take hold.
But don’t despair! Whether you suffer with a ‘muffin top’
squidging over the waistband of your shorts, a ‘pot belly’ protruding
through summer dresses, or a ‘jelly belly’ that needs keeping under
wraps at all times, it’s never too late to take action and swap a bulging
stomach for a neat, trim waist and flat tummy.
‘There’s no amazing secret to getting flat abs,’ says fitness instructor
and personal trainer Anna Lovelock of online training service ThinQ
Fitness ( ‘It simply comes down to the
tried-and-tested method of a healthy diet combined with regular
exercise’. However, she adds, the types of exercises you do, the way
you perform them and how often, can make a dramatic difference to
the results you get. ‘Too many women get stuck in a rut with their
abs routines and despair when they don’t see any changes to their
stomach. But if you follow the right approach and correct your
mistakes, you’ll be able to wear a bikini and show off a toned torso
with confidence in no time.’
Four steps to flat abs
1. up your cardio
If there’s one mistake women consistently make when trying to
tone their tummies, it’s not doing enough aerobic exercise. You can
do all the crunches and sit-ups in the world, but if you don’t reduce
64 Health & Fitness
Flat belly special
the layer of fat lying on top of your abdominal
muscles, you’re never going to see them. ‘Be
honest with yourself,’ says Lovelock. ‘If you have
fat on your tummy that could do with coming
off, do activities such as running, walking and
aerobics for at least 30 minutes, three to five
times a week to burn fat from your waist and see
a change to its shape and definition.’
2. Change your diet
Reducing the number of calories you eat
and switching to a healthier diet, plus
doing more cardio exercise, can help you shift
unwanted pounds from your belly. Consider
whether food you eat, such
as wheat or dairy products, might be
contributing to bloating. Plus, make sure you
take time to chew and digest meals.
‘Alcohol and processed food high in salt
and sugar can play havoc with your
metabolism, making it harder for you to
lose weight,’ says Lovelock. ‘A low-fat
diet high in protein and rich in
monosaturated fats, such as nuts
and avocados, will help you see
those extra inches melt away.’
For more ideas for flat belly
foods, turn to page 68.
3.Vary your
Basic crunches are
great, but they only
work the upper
abdominal area.
‘To shape and
flatten your
waist, you’ll also
need to work the
lower abs (which
act as a corset and
hold the stomach in),
the oblique muscles at
the sides of your waist,
and your deeper core
muscles. Strengthen your
core, and it’ll be much easier to
keep your stomach flat and
toned,’ says Lovelock. ‘I’m a
believer in cross-training to get
maximum results, and doing classes
such as yoga and kettlebells can help you
work your abs effectively in more
functional ways [than crunches].’
4. Chill out
It’s sad but true – stress increases levels of the
hormone cortisol in our bodies, which research
shows increases the fat around our tummies.
But before you reach for the Chardonnay to
help you relax, be warned, alcohol also raises
levels of cortisol. Instead, try yoga or Pilates to
tone and calm you.
True or false?
We separate flat belly myths from the facts
Quantity over quality
Ex Spice Girls Victoria Beckham and Mel B have
both admitted to doing hundreds of crunches
every day to maintain their six-packs, but that
doesn’t mean their approach is correct. Doing
30 good-quality crunches that are slow and
controlled on both the concentric (up) and
eccentric (down) phase of the exercise will
do so much more for your abs than fast
movements where you’re pulling on your
head, jerking your body around or not
breathing properly (exhale on the way up and
inhale on the way down). Aim to divide reps
into sets of 10–15 and make sure you rest in
between, instead of doing 250 lacklustre
crunches in a row. There’s no harm in working
your abs most days, but like any muscle, you
should rest them at least once a week. Three
good abs workouts a week combined with
other forms of exercise will be just as effective
as working your stomach every day.
You can spot reduce
Wrong! Whether you describe your excess belly
fat as a ‘pot belly’ or ‘muffin top’, the fact is that
even though they appear to sit in different
areas of your torso, you can’t reduce the fat
from one specific area. If you want to slim
down a paunch, you’re going to need to lose
weight from your entire body to see an effect.
Apple-shapes can’t
get a flat tummy
Hmmm, this is a tricky one. There are two types
of apple-shapes – those who are genetically
predisposed to put on weight around their
tummies in the same way some of us put
weight on our thighs first, and those who are
apple-shaped as a result of an unhealthy
lifestyle. While you can’t change your genes,
you can be extra vigilant about gaining weight
and maintaining a strong core if you can see a
pattern of apple-shaped bodies in your family,
and if your extra tummy weight is down to too
much alcohol, too much food and a lack of
exercise, you know what you have to do!
You lose your waist
as you get older
While it’s true our metabolism slows after the
age of 30 (we gain half a pound a year on
average) and we’re more predisposed to gaining
weight around our stomach after the menopause,
that doesn’t mean losing your flat tummy is a
given. Just look at 50-year-old Madonna (who’s
given birth to two children) to realise you just
need to work harder as you get older. Reducing
calories, upping cardio and doing strength work
(which is proven to boost your metabolic rate)
can all help.
The best abs
Indo board training
A favourite of Cameron Diaz,
Indo Board training involves
standing on a wooden
board balanced on
a cylinder roller for a
multidirectional workout
that works core strength
– think surfing on land! You can
try it now at selected Fitness First
gyms (
or buy your own, from £95, at
Famed for strengthening the
deeper layers of the core,
improving posture and
helping you tune into your
body to bring awareness,
some faster-based varieties
of Pilates also help you burn
fat to reveal flat abs. Visit to find your
local Pilates class or instructor.
Get abs of steel when you jab,
punch, hook and duck your
way to fitness. With so
much multi-directional
movement, you need to
hold your core in at all times
to support your lower back
(and take a punch, in theory).
Many boxing classes or lessons
also include dedicated abs
workouts to strengthen the torso.
Head to London-based Gym Box
(, or find your
local boxing club at The Amateur
Boxing Association website,
A fast dance workout that will
burn hundreds of calories as
you samba, salsa and
merengue your way across
the floor. Guaranteed to
whittle your waist through
the variations of side-to-side
wiggling movements. Try it at
Virgin Active gyms (www., or at home
when you buy your own Zumba
Fitness kit, £38.98, containing four
instructional workout DVDs and
toning sticks, from www.
Health & Fitness 65
Six ultimate
Try these moves devised by personal
trainer Anna Lovelock to get a sixpack even Madonna would envy!
Navel raise
n ‘This exercise helps you tune into your lower stomach muscles and
learn how to activate them properly. It’s also great for beginners or
those who have lower back problems.’
How to do it: Start in a box position with your weight distributed
between your hands and knees and keep a flat back. On an out-breath,
gently draw your navel up to your spine without moving your back. Try
this in front of a mirror to check your back stays still. Breathing
throughout, hold for as long as is comfortable or until you feel you can’t
hold your abdominals in any longer, rest, then repeat three more times.
Aim to build up
of 10
to ee or four sets
and do
reps of each exerc
them three
rep t for
move in a circuit and
three more
Swiss ball crunch
n ‘Try regular crunches on a Swiss ball to work your upper abs – you’ll
get a full range of movement and your back will be more comfortable.’
How to do it: Lie on an exercise ball with your lower back supported on
the ball, and hands to the sides of your head. Keep your feet and knees
hip-width apart and parallel. Exhale to slowly curl your head and shoulders
up, and keep your eyes looking forward. Inhale as your go back to the start
position. Keep your elbows wide and use slow, controlled movements.
Bicycle criss-cross
n ‘A great variation on a crunch that also works your sides, upper and
lower abs and other core muscles in one go.’
How to do it: Lie on your back and bring your knees up above your hips
and bent to a right angle. Place your fingers behind your ears, keeping
elbows wide and lift your head from the floor. Exhale and peel your right
shoulder across towards your left hip as you extend your right leg out (as
low as you can – keep stomach flat and spine neutral). Inhale as you go
back to the centre and exhale to go in the opposite direction. Don’t pull
your upper body off the ground – concentrate on lifting and rotating.
Side plank with elbow to knee
n ‘This works your obliques and deep muscles in your back to define
your waist and strengthen the core’.
How to do it: Lying on your right side, look down your body to make sure
you’re lying in a straight line. Place your right forearm on the floor in front of
you and raise your left hand to your temple, elbow pointing up. Lift your torso
and legs off the floor by balancing on your right forearm and feet to form a
side plank (a). In one movement, bring your left knee and left elbow together,
making sure you keep your core engaged and hips lifted (b).
66 Health & Fitness
n ‘An isolation exercise that trains the deep core muscles around the
stomach and back.’
How to do it: Lie face-down on the floor with your legs straight and
hands on the floor a few inches apart in front of you. With your forearms
parallel to each other on the floor, raise your body, supporting your weight
with your forearms and feet. Ensure you keep your core muscles
engaged and keep a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders –
don’t drop the hips or arch the back. Hold this position for as long as you
can until your technique starts to fail.
Flat belly special
Tummy toning treatments
Reverse curl
n ‘You still work your upper abs, but the emphasis is on the lower abs
because of the weight of your legs. A great move if you stay in control.’
How to do it: Lie on the floor on your back with your hands at your sides,
palms facing down. Raise your legs in the air, keeping a bend in the knee (a).
Press your heels towards the ceiling, gently flexing your feet, then pull your
stomach in tightly and press your spine into the floor. Using your abdominal
muscles, slowly peel your hips away from the floor (b), then lower them
again. Remember to concentrate on lifting your pelvis up towards your
stomach – not simply raising and lowering your legs. Keep the movement
smooth and try not to rock your body. Make sure you only use the strength
in your abdomen to do this exercise. Even a very small move is effective.
Elemis’ Body Sculpting Cellulite and Colon
Therapy (£90 for 60 minutes) is designed to define your
silhouette. Elemis Body Sculpting Lipo-Refining Serum and
Firming Cream are massaged into stubborn cellulite and sagging
skin to improve skin texture. A detoxifying fennel and birch body
mask and abdominal massage follow, to cleanse the colon and
reduce bloating. Abdominal massage is a great way to lose
those stubborn inches! Visit
The Sanctuary’s Trim and Tone Body Wrap
(£95 for 85 minutes) is a detoxifying clay wrap that targets tummy
and thighs. The clay encourages micro-circulation to firm and tone
lifeless skin, and body brushing techniques stimulate the lymphatic
system and eliminate toxins. Many women lose five centimetres
after just one application. You can buy the clay and cotton
bandages to try this wrap at home;
Velashape (at The Private Clinic, Harley Street) is a pain-free
alternative to inch-loss surgery. During the 45-minute treatment, a
mix of radio frequencies, infra-red, vacuum and mechanical
massage boosts circulation and lymphatic drainage. The
treatment is used on the stomach or love handles and results can
be seen after just one session. It’s pricey, though, with treatments
costing £280 a pop!
DIY tummy toners
Mix this Clarins Shaping Supplement (1)
(£36.50 for 50ml) with your moisturiser or body oil for an
easier way to help tone up your tum every day. Caffeine is
said to help speed the release of fat, and plant extracts such
as geranium help contour your figure;
Smooth on Thalgo’s Flat Stomach gel (2)
(£40.35 for 125ml) and you’ll instantly feel as though you’re
wearing a corset. As you massage in this gel, containing
plant extracts and algae, your fat cells contract and the
result is tighter skin and a more defined silhouette. Use this
on your tummy and hips before slipping on a figure-hugging
Used daily for two months, Rodial’s Tummy Tuck
cream (3) (£100 for 125ml), is said to be the closest
natural alternative to surgery! Fig extract and neuropeptides
break down fatty cells and boost cell metabolism to help you
achieve a flat stomach;
Hit your abdominals with a trio of fab toning products from
Bliss. The Fatgirlthree set (4) (£78), includes the
famous caffeine-rich Fatgirlslim moisturiser, the Fatgirlsleep
night time dimple fighter and the Fatgirlscrub exfoliator
which removes dead skin and tackles midriff blubber;
Health & Fitness 67
WORDS: Joanna Ebsworth. BIKINI PHOTOGRAPHY: Ian Derry; MODEL: Fernanda @ MOT. HAIR & MAKE-UP: Hester @ Era Management. STYLIST: Kellie Daggett. CLOTHING: adidas Originals bikini top, £15; bottoms, £15 (
WORKOUT PHOTOGRAPHY: Will Ireland. MODEL: Sophie @ W Models. HAIR & MAKE-UP: Malin Coleman. CLOTHING: Nike Zoom Fly Sister One+ trainers, £70 ( Sweaty Betty All Sport bra, £25; shorts, £15 (
Mama Mio’s Spa Bikini Bootcamp treatment
(£95 for 90 minutes) is dubbed a mini-facial for your BBB (boobs,
bum and belly). This super-intense, pre-holiday treatment includes
double exfoliation, glycolic peels, an algaenet masque and
hard-core deep tissue massage, all designed to tighten saggy skin
and reduce cellulite. Visit for spa locations,
or try the treatment in the comfort of your home with home-visit
beauty service Return to Glory (