Which exercises help sculpt your abs, and how to do them at home – INSIDER

Posted: January 28, 2020 at 6:44 am

If firming up your midsection is on your to-do list, you're not alone. Getting rid of stubborn belly fat is one of the most common goals for people looking to lose weight and get fit.

And while targeted fat loss or spot reduction does not work, you can tighten and tone this area along with the rest of your body by exercising and following a healthy diet.

Reducing belly fat is often more challenging than dropping inches from other parts of the body because doing so relies heavily on diet, says Caley Crawford, NASM CPT, and Director of Education for Row House.

"We often think if we do enough sit-ups, then we'll get a flatter stomach; however, abs also happen in the kitchen," says Crawford. "So, if you're looking to lose belly fat, it's crucial that you partner a strong and healthy diet with your exercise routine," she says.

You'll also need to consider your age and genes. According to the Mayo Clinic, they can play a small role in where you store fat. That's why adhering to a healthy, balanced diet (with little or no processed carbohydrates) along with your exercise program is critical to get rid of stubborn belly fat.

While it's true that core-specific exercises are a great way to fire up your abs, performing strength-training moves for your entire body may help you reach your goal of torching fat faster than if you focus only on abdominal exercises.

"Doing core-focused exercises like sit-ups and flutter kicks are always a great way to get some extra definition in your abdominals; however, functional, full-body movements strengthen and tone your core just as much," Crawford says.

For example, doing a squat works your quads, but it also involves maintaining a stable trunk, which requires your abdominal muscles to contract. Other exercises like lunges, rows, and push-ups also require your abdominal muscles to work in a coordinated fashion with the other muscles you're stressing. So, in all, you're still getting a core exercise even though you may feel it more in the glutes, back, or chest.

Here's a core workout you can perform at home or at the gym, including moves that target your upper and lower body. Crawford says to complete each exercise for the recommended number of reps before moving to the next move. For a complete workout, do three rounds. For an extra challenge, consider adding a set of dumbbells.

Warm-up: Three to five minutes of rowing without the foot straps (this fires up the core even more). Start slow, and be sure to keep your toes connected to the footplate. If you don't have access to a rowing machine, warm up with a stationary bike, treadmill, or walking in place.

Exercise 1: 15 to 20 reps of squats + arms reach up overhead

Exercise 2: 10 to 15 reps of tempo push-ups (three counts down, one count up)

Exercise 3: 10 to 15 reps each leg of side plank + knee drives (In a side plank, bring the top knee to meet the elbow and lengthen)

Exercise 4: 10 to 15 alternating straight-leg toe touches

Exercise 5: 30 seconds of a hollow hold

If you do this workout three times a week, Crawford says, you should start to feel results in about six to eight weeks. "You'll feel stronger first, then you'll start to see progress in your performance, and then you'll start to see results," Crawford says.

If you're unfamiliar with these exercises, here's how to do them:

Side plank + knee drive

Alternating straight-leg toe touches

Hollow Hold

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Which exercises help sculpt your abs, and how to do them at home - INSIDER

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