How to do a sprawl: Standing with your feet shoulder-distance apart, squat down and place your hands on the ground. Jump your feet back to a plank and lower your body to touch the ground. Push yourself up to a plank and then jump your feet outside of your hands into a squat. Stand back up. That’s one rep. “If you want to burn even more calories, add a jump between each sprawl,” Braganza adds.
Okay, you get the point: belly fat = bad. How do you lose it? You have to think beyond crunches and planks and adopt a well-rounded approach. “It’s got to be more losing fat as a whole,” agrees Chris Gagliardi, a certified personal trainer at the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Without further ado, here are the best ways to lose belly fat once and for all.
DO IT: Assume a pushup position with your hands below your shoulders and your body forming a straight line from your head to your heels. This is the starting position. Lifting your right foot off of the floor, drive your right knee towards your chest. Tap the floor with your right foot and then return to the starting position. Alternate legs with each repetition.
Try interval training. This type of exercise routine can help you break up your workout without actually stopping your workout session. Interval training involves you going at an easy pace for a duration of time, and then going all out. You can also adjust the duration and pauses between the cycling back and forth. This can burn more calories and potentially increase your metabolism.
While the old thinking was that steady-state cardio sessions were best for burning fat, we now know that short and intense bursts of fast-paced cardio is much more effective. Hope Pedraza, an ACSM personal trainer and the creator of inBalance, a San Antonio-based fitness and wellness studio, suggests doing intervals that alternate between exercises that work different muscle groups.
Eat small meals more often. In simple terms, eating spurs your metabolism — the process by which your body turns food into energy. Eating more often, then, may kick your metabolism into a higher gear more times per day (e.g., if you eat six times a day, you get six “spikes”). But, you must make sure that eating more often does not also mean eating more; it's essential that you reduce your overall average daily calories.
“Medicine ball slams are a dynamic, explosive, and highly metabolic exercise that does not simply target one muscle group,” explains Chris DiVecchio, trainer and founder of Premier Body & Mind. On the surface, the obliques, hamstrings, quads, biceps, and shoulders are the primary movers of this exercise. “But as time goes on and fatigue sets in, nearly every other muscle in the body, in one way or another, may become involved as a secondary mover which makes this a total gut blaster,” he adds. Doing side-to-side ball slams versus overhead slams incorporates more oblique ab work.
Many television ads are now pitching devices that supposedly stimulate muscles to contract repeatedly without exercise. I even saw an infomercial for an "ab belt" that claimed it does the work of 700 sit-ups in 10 minutes! The ad shows people doing various abdominal exercises the wrong way, hating every second of it, versus smiling men and women going about their days with "Ab-whatevers" strapped around them. How enticing!
The internal and external obliques, which I like to call "nature's girdle," are located at the sides of the rectus abdominis. They are the muscles you use when you bend sideways at the spine or twist at the waist. They also contract to compress the abdomen, so you should work them just as hard as you work the rectus abdominis. Adding a twist to crunches works, as well as dumbbell side bends, but be careful not to use any jerky motions, especially if you've had back problems.
Body fat seems so easy to add and so hard to get rid of. You try to work out and restrict your calorie intake, and yet the fat still refuses to go away. If this sounds familiar, rest assured that there are healthy options for effectively burning fat. While there's no guarantee that your fat will simply melt away (as many fad diet/pill/exercise ads promise), you can improve your health and appearance by getting your body working for you — and against your excess fat.
Still, it’s a worthy goal to lose belly fat because it’s “unfortunately the most dangerous location to store fat,” says Lawrence Cheskin, MD, chair of the department of nutrition and food studies at George Mason University and director of the Johns Hopkins Weight Management Center. Because belly fat—also known as visceral fat, or the deep abdominal fat that surrounds your organs—is more temporary, it circulates throughout the bloodstream more regularly and is therefore likelier to raise the amount of fat in your blood, increasing your blood sugar levels and putting you at a greater risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
How to do overhead medicine ball slams: Standing tall with your feet hip-width apart, hold a medicine ball with both hands. Reach both arms overhead, fully extending your body. Slam the ball forward and down toward the ground. Extend your arms toward the ground as you slam and don’t be afraid to bend your knees as you hinge over. Squat to pick the ball up and then stand back up.
A big part of weight loss is simply being aware of the decisions you’re making. For example, when out at happy hour with friends, you may lose track of how much you're eating or drinking. But if you take a split second to step back and become aware of that fact, you’re more able to course correct. “The awareness and then planning for what else I can be doing, that might give me the same benefit of eating comfort foods,” says Gagliardi.
It's more challenging than a normal plank where your hands are on the floor, because the BOSU tests your balance, says Sanford. "When your body tries to find control as your balance is challenged, your abs, obliques, and deep transverse abdominal muscles are activated," he says. Strengthening these core muscles also helps increase your metabolism, ultimately helping you to burn more calories and fat.
If you've been lifting moderately heavy weights but are still looking to drop belly fat, it's time to pick up the intensity by using heavier weights and cutting down on rest time between reps, says Tyler Spraul, CSCS, a certified strength and conditioning specialist and the head trainer at Exercise.com. "Lifting heavy is where you see more an afterburn effect. Your body continues to burn calories even after you leave the gym," Spraul says. Just be sure that your technique doesn't suffer as you increase your weight, which can lead to injury. If you're new to strength training, this 15-minute total-body workout is a great place to start.
Drink cold water: Staying hydrated period is important to keep your systems sharp, but adding ice to your water can help give your fat-burning potential a boost. German researchers found that drinking six cups of cold water can raise your BMR—that’s your resting metabolism—by roughly 50 calories a day because your body has to work to heat the H2O to body temperature.
Eat more protein. Protein is required by the body to repair damaged cells and plays a vital role in growth and development. But it can also play a role in weight loss. Diets high in protein tend to make people feel fuller, and when paired with a reduction in carbohydrate intake these diets can help with weight loss. However, it's important to remember that not all sources of protein are good for you: red meat and full-fat dairy products, though high in protein, can also increase the risk of heart disease. Good sources of protein include:
Break up your workouts. Your metabolism spikes after every bout of physical activity. So if you can break up your hour workout into two half-hour chunks, you'll get two spikes instead of one. Your body burns calories at a higher-rate after a workout (sometimes for several hours after), and if you rejuvenate it later in the day, you'll further enhance the effect.