By Amanda Weiss
Physical appearance plays a large role in our culture. One of the prime features of the models we see in advertisements is a flat belly. In fact, flat bellies are part of the standards of beauty in many societies. Therefore, people often approach physical fitness routines with goals such as being healthier and slimming their waistline. Whether you are hoping for aesthetic improvements or want to feel more in shape, you may want to tone your belly as quickly as possible. There are a variety of exercises that specifically target your core, helping you to do so. To help you create the perfect workout plan, here are 9 moves that will flatten your belly.
One of the more classic exercises that targets your core to help tone your abdominal muscles is the plank. In order to do this pose, you should start on your hands and knees, then go up into a push-up position. From there, as the name “plank” suggests, you should keep your body straight and strong. One of the most important aspects of doing so is keeping your abdominal muscles engaged. In order to reap the best benefits, you should make sure not to let your hips fall. Neither should you raise your hips up too high. You should try to hold yourself in this position for at least a minute, then do a few repetitions. As you practice this more often, you will be able to hold it for longer. There are also variations other than this straight-arm plank that you may want to try.
2) Diagonal Pike Legs
If you are looking to incorporate some abdominal-toning exercises into your floor workout, diagonal pike legs are for you. This exercise, if done on a hard floor, should be done on a mat since it involves laying down. In order to get into a position to start, you should lay on your back with your legs straight out. Then rotate your hips so that your legs are diagonally slanted to one side. If this is the right side, for instance, you should put your right hand on the back of your head to support it. The other arm should just be extended out to your side. Then, while engaging your core muscles, go up into a crunch, keeping your legs straight and diagonal. If you keep your abdominals engaged and your legs straight, you will feel your muscles getting a workout. Then slowly lower yourself to the floor and do around 30 repetitions. You should repeat this exercise on the other side as well.
3) Standing Side Crunch
It is well known that crunches are great for targeting muscles in your core, which helps you slim down. What you may not be aware of, however, is that there are some standing variations of crunches. This may be beneficial if you have difficulty getting up off the ground after a workout. To start the standing side crunch, you should stand on your left foot and extend your left arm to the side. Raise your right foot up a few inches out to the side as well. You can then bend your right arm so the hand is behind your head. To incorporate the necessary motion, raise your right knee to your right elbow. This will crunch your body sideways and inwards. It is recommended to do around 15 repetitions on each side. This particular crunch targets your legs as well as oblique abdominal muscles.
4) Archer Row
Even without losing significant amounts of weight, you can look slimmer by improving the way you carry yourself. The archer row exercise is a means of strengthening your back and abdominal muscles, which will improve your posture. To start this exercise, you need to get into a plank position. Then, separate your legs slightly wider than hip distance, and point them both to the left. You should then make sure to hold yourself up securely with your right hand and take a dumbbell in your left. Row the dumbbell up towards yourself, doing several repetitions on each side. It is very important to hold yourself strongly throughout this exercise to avoid falling and to get the best workout. If you twist too much, you may end up injuring yourself. As with other plank-based positions, keeping your back straight is a must.
5) Weighted Bicycle
Research conducted by San Diego State University suggests that bicycle moves are especially effective for working your abdominal muscles. The starting position you will need for the weighted bicycle is laying on your back with your knees bent. From there, wrap your left arm under your head and grab your right arm near the elbow. Then extend your left leg out and press the foot of your bent right leg against it. Once your body is in that position, raise both your legs to a 45° angle above the ground and lift your right shoulder up and towards your left leg. This slight twisting motion helps work out the muscles. Then lower your head and legs, and do approximately 15 repetitions. To strengthen both sides of your abdominals, repeat the same number of repetitions on the other side.
6) Chop Jacks
Doing chop jacks is an especially good way to work out because it incorporates a cardiovascular element. The starting position for this move is standing up straight with your feet together and hands clasped in front of you. Then raise your hands to your right shoulder. The primary motion of chop jacks then follows. Jump your legs apart, then squat down and bring your hands down towards your left hip, simultaneously. Complete the cycle by jumping back together and raising your hands back to your right shoulder. Repeat this motion several times. Then, switch sides and do the same number of repetitions there. If you focus on jumping higher and not stopping much between repetitions, you will burn more calories. Therefore, you will lose fat faster and get a slimmer belly sooner.
7) Upside-Down Pendulum
To do the upside-down pendulum, you will need a dumbbell ranging from 3-5 pounds. You may need to start with less weight, as it is important not to strain your muscles too much. To start the move, stand with your feet apart slightly wider than hip-width. Be careful to keep your knees loose and do not lock them. Use both hands to grasp the dumbbell with both hands, and raise your arms straight up. Bend leftwards, keeping your head between your arms as you go. Then swivel to stretch down towards the floor. As the name suggests, your motion should be smooth like a pendulum’s swing. Reverse the motion to rotate back up to standing with your arms overhead. Do several repetitions, approximately 10, then try doing the same number on the other side.
8) Toe Dip
The toe dip move was inspired by Pilates to help you get a slimmer belly. To start this move, you will need to lay on your back with your knees bent at 90° raised above you. That is, your thighs should be perpendicular to the floor. Your hands should be at your sides, with palms down, and your back pressed to the ground. Breathe in and lower one leg for 2 seconds, then breathe out and let it come back up over a 2 second duration. Your toe should not touch the ground at any point. Repeat this motion with your other leg. Then, perform about 12 repetitions on both legs. During this exercise, make sure to pull your belly button towards your spine, engaging your core, for maximum benefit. You should try to repeat this exercise, and others, 3 times every week.
9) Swiss Ball Pike
The Swiss ball pike move requires the use of a Swiss fitness ball, which is a common fitness accessory. This exercise is used for strength training, and targets the abdominal, hip, shoulder, and pectoral muscles. To start this exercise, you must arrange yourself into push-up position, with your shins supported on the Swiss ball. Then, raise your hips upwards and roll the ball forwards, ending when the tops of your feet rest on the ball. Your body should resemble an upside-down V at this point. You should stay in this position for a second before slowly returning back to the starting position. You can do several repetitions, but do not allow your body to collapse down, as this can cause injury. There are several variations of this exercise that you may want to try once you have mastered this one.