Achieving a ‘strong core’ and getting ‘flat abs’ are really two different things. Our Fitness Expert, Libby Babet, tells you how to score both!
The abdominals may get a lot of attention when it comes to your mid-section but to build a truly strong core that will support your back, improve posture and mobility, as well as increase athletic performance, it’s important to look at exercises that strengthen your entire mid-section, front and back, from your shoulders to your hips.
When it comes to making your stomach look good, unless you’ve got great genes then it’s almost all down to diet and lifestyle. All the crunches in the world won’t reveal that six-pack if your nutrition isn’t up to scratch, your digestion is out of sorts and you’re life’s one big stressful ride!
The good news? A few simple tricks can sort you out.
Build a Strong Core
Your abdominals, mid to lower back and hips all work together to make up your ‘core’, so to create a really strong foundation, it’s important to do core work that engages the entire area as one unit, the front and back of your trunk/torso contracting together. Multi-joint movements that require you to stabilise your spine as they’re performed are also really helpful.
The good news is, you don’t need a gym to make a serious impact on your core strength - incorporate a few bodyweight basics into your daily routine to start seeing results.
Things like plank, side plank, prone rows, hip raises and elevated hip raises, woodchops, plank rows, oblique twists, squats, pushups, lunges and lunge-twists, chin-ups/pullups, as well as crawling, reaching and ground-to-standing exercises are all important parts of a good core strength routine, as is pretty much any exercise performed on an unstable surface, like a BOSU or Swiss Ball.
Get Flat Abs
OK, here’s the part you’re really reading this for, right? How to get flat abs!
There are usually a few key hormones you can hold accountable when your tummy just won’t shift – Insulin (responsible for energy storage) and Cortisol (responsible for stress response) particularly.
Keep Insulin happy by eating a diet low in simple carbohydrates, sugars and processed foods but high in fibre, protein and good fats.
Ditching your morning cereal/bread routine and eating a breakfast made up of protein and good fats can help turn insulin issues around quick-fast! Make sure you stock up on plenty of fibrous veggies throughout the day and consider adding a natural fibre supplement and some good quality fish oils to your diet to ramp up results.
Next, reduce those cortisol levels by getting good quality sleep, plenty of moderate exercise, some fun social time and importantly, a little “you” time in whichever form works for you; meditation, a good book, a long walk, a swim in the ocean, or simply a cup of tea in the garden. It’s the little things you make time for that will help combat stress build up.
Flat tummy foods include berries, green leafy veggies, good fats like avocado, oily fish and good quality oils like coconut and olive (good fats are a HUGE help on the path to a flat tum), sufficient water, a little full fat and organic yoghurt and… wait for it… dark chocolate! Look for brands with less than 10g sugar per 100g.
We hate to say it but… cutting out coffee, alcohol, fizzy drinks and sugar will make a HUGE difference here.
In terms of your training, the best thing you can do to zap tummy fat is functional resistance/weight training and also interval cardio, performed with intensity.
We’ll leave the resistance work up to you and your trainer, but here are a few interval cardio workouts to try next time you hit the local sports field, or treadmill.
Choose one of the sessions below and whip out your stopwatch. Complete each of the runs suggested as quickly as you can, resting for approximately twice as long as it takes you to complete each run before moving on to the next one. For example, if you finish a 200m sprint in one minute, rest or walk/jog slowly for two minutes, then complete the next sprint on the list.
Choose the session that appeals to you most, or try a different one each week!
Session #1 - Longer Intervals
3 x 1200m
Session #2 - Mid-Distance Sprint Intervals
1 x 800m
2 x 400m
3 x 200m
Session #3 - Short & Sharp Sprint Intervals
4 x 200m
4 x 100m
8 x 50m
Do you have a question for Libby? Ask her HERE