How to get a strong core, flatter stomach and better definition
As summer arrives and with it the prospect of a day on the beach, we might be looking at how exactly our mid-section appears in swimwear. But there’s more to it than that as the health benefits of a strong core and a toned stomach are many. Carrying more weight around your middle has been found to increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. And a strong core is essential for stability, back health and posture.
But before you start racking through endless and torturous stomach crunches, read on as there’s much more to it than you might think…
Take a Holistic Approach
Exercise alone won’t cut it. Monique Eastwood, celebrity trainer to stars including Emily Blunt and Stanley Tucci, says you need to reduce fat and also understand how to work all the core muscles not just the abs. She says: “The core is a large group of muscles that are both deep and superficial, so it’s a really big area to work! Your core strength is a very different entity to just how flat your stomach (outer abs) is. The core is a deep abdominal connection and involves activating muscles from the pelvis to the shoulder area.
“Flat outer abs are obtained through healthy eating and a mixture of strength and cardio workouts to break down any excess fatty deposits in the surrounding area, therefore allowing the superficial muscles like the six pack muscle, to be more visible.”
Adds personal trainer, Becky Bowman of Gympass UK: “I always tell my clients that abs are not made in the gym they are made in the kitchen! A well-balanced diet goes a long way when it comes to achieving a flat toned stomach. We all have abs but to create definition it requires reducing the amount of body fat sat in front of the core.”
Learn the different types of core muscles and what exercises work best for each muscle group. For example, to work the lower core, try leg raises, crunches for the upper core and side plank dips for the obliques, she adds.
Beauty expert Lisa Harris says a holistic approach is key, with exercise, diet and even correcting your posture, which helps tone stomach muscles and gives you an instantly streamlined look. She advises kickstarting your efforts with some detoxifying juices such as beetroot and celery, get your lymphatic system working with body brushing, and consider a body wrap treatment to help flush out toxins.
Food for Thought
Nutritional therapist Tamla Anderson notes that stubborn belly fat is closely linked to fluctuating hormones and in particular, insulin. “High levels of insulin signal to the body to store fat around the middle. Belly fat also produces insulin, which is why belly fat is so tricky to shift. Insulin also blocks leptin (satiety hormone), so it’s common to feel hungry straight after eating a sugary, processed meal. The key to managing insulin levels is to ditch sugar and refined carbs and eat real food instead.”
Another key tip is to include Omega 3 fatty acids found in oily fish, nuts and seeds to manage insulin levels in the body and lose belly fat. And reach for foods containing soluble fibre such as flax seeds, apples, quinoa and beans (black & kidney beans). “Soluble fibre (not wheat or bran) feeds the good bacteria in our guts and causes the bacteria to produce something called short chain fatty acids. These SCFAs are partly responsible for increasing our capacity to burn energy. Soluble fibre keeps us feeling fuller for longer and also improves bowel movements, making us feel less bloated.”
A Helping Hand
While a good diet and exercise are essential, it’s worth noting that there are some salon treatments that offer powerful solutions to help spur you on. CoolSculpting, available at nakedhealth MEDISPA, freezes fat cells, which then die. Over time, your body naturally processes the fat and eliminates these dead cells. The best results are seen two to three months after treatment. Nakedhealth also recommends Emsculpt to help patients achieve slimmer and more athletic body contours, by reducing fat whilst building the muscle foundations underneath. Emsculpt delivers 20,000+ contractions in one 30 minute session, equivalent to 11 crunches per second. SlimDrone, meanwhile, at Lisa Harris, uses electrostimulation to firm muscle, thermostimulation to reduce orange peel skin and phototherapy to improve skin texture. You may need around 6 sessions once to twice a week.
MORE GREAT WAYS TO GET GOOD ABS!
With a background in performing arts, WithU trainer Bryony Thompson combines her experience on stage with her wealth of exercise knowledge gained from London’s boutique fitness industry. She advises….
The number one goal is to reduce overall body fat content, it is impossible to ‘spot reduce’ fat, so you cannot only lose body fat from one place, it must be reduced across the body.
There are two types of fat: the dangerous type of fat is called visceral fat and is stored in the abdominal cavity and surrounds your organs. The other type of fat is called subcutaneous, and simply sits underneath the skin and provides energy and insulation.
To lose fat you must be in a calorie deficit, this means burning more calories than you are consuming. You can do this by increasing your level of exercise, reducing your food intake, or a combination of the two.
Remember, whatever diet you do it should be sustainable. If you want to lose fat for good, you must choose dietary choices and a lifestyle that you can stick to.
A stronger core – The job of the core muscles is to stabilise and control movements from the lower body to the upper body. Typical responsibilities include: rotation, anti-rotation, flexion and extension. A strong core is essential to transfer power between the upper and lower back, to stabilise the body whilst lifting things, to help control the body and to secure it, to reduce the risk of injury. A common misconception about ‘core’ training, is only focusing on the visible abs or six pack muscles. It is also essential to train the obliques, lower back and deep abdominal muscles.
Make sure to involve some static exercises, like the plank, some rotation exercises such as woodchops or Russian twists, flexion-extension exercises like sit-ups and back extensions, and even some unevenly loaded exercises like single arm kettlebell farmers walk – to train the various aspects of the core muscles.
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