A flat belly now! Get your dream abs with our ultimate tummy tone-up plan I 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 (www.thinqfitness.com). ‘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 www.healthandfitnessonline.co.uk 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 workouts 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 workouts 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 (www.fitnessfirst.co.uk) or buy your own, from £95, at www.indoeurope.com. Pilates 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 www.pilates.co.uk to find your local Pilates class or instructor. Boxing 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 (www.gymbox.co.uk), or find your local boxing club at The Amateur Boxing Association website, www.abae.co.uk. Zumba 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. virginactive.co.uk), or at home when you buy your own Zumba Fitness kit, £38.98, containing four instructional workout DVDs and toning sticks, from www. ➤ zumbafitness.co.uk. Health & Fitness 65 Six ultimate Flat-belly exercises! 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 thr to ee or four sets and do , ise reps of each exerc ek. we a es tim them three each of t se e on do , ely Alternativ ea rep t for move in a circuit and to ts se three more ent fer dif e us y continuall muscles. a b 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. a 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. b 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 www.healthandfitnessonline.co.uk Plank 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 b 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 www.elemis.com. 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; www.thesanctuary.co.uk. 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! www.theprivateclinic.com. 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; www.clarins.co.uk. 3 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 dress; www.thalgo.com. 2 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; www.rodial.co.uk. 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; www.blisslondon.co.uk. n 4 1 Health & Fitness 67 WORDS: Joanna Ebsworth. BIKINI PHOTOGRAPHY: Ian Derry; Fotolia.com. MODEL: Fernanda @ MOT. HAIR & MAKE-UP: Hester @ Era Management. STYLIST: Kellie Daggett. CLOTHING: adidas Originals bikini top, £15; bottoms, £15 (www.adidas.com/uk). WORKOUT PHOTOGRAPHY: Will Ireland. MODEL: Sophie @ W Models. HAIR & MAKE-UP: Malin Coleman. CLOTHING: Nike Zoom Fly Sister One+ trainers, £70 (www.nikestore.com). Sweaty Betty All Sport bra, £25; shorts, £15 (www.sweatybetty.com) a 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 www.mamamio.com for spa locations, or try the treatment in the comfort of your home with home-visit beauty service Return to Glory (www.returntoglory.co.uk).
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