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.
Work your core. When many people think of core strengthening, they think of stomach crunches. Crunches are helpful for building abdominal muscles, but contrary to popular belief, crunches won't do much to lose the layer of fat stored in your belly, and can actually cause significant damage to the spine. Instead, try a workout routine that strengthens your whole core, like yoga, or try abdominal presses and planking.
Focus on cardiovascular exercise. Cardiovascular exercise is one of the best ways to lose weight. Studies show that cardiovascular exercise like walking, jogging, and running is highly effective at any degree of intensity. That's because cardio/aerobic exercise works the muscles in your arms, legs, and hips, and increases blood flow to all sets of muscles. Effective cardio exercises include:
Cut back on carbs: Remember how insulin has the biggest impact on fat storage? Well, carbs have the biggest impact on insulin. ”Too many carbohydrates leads to a spike in the hormone and then to more fat storage,” Seedman explains. Not only should you cut back on carbs, but your insulin will spike even more from processed ones, so cut any carb that’s not a whole grain or from real produce completely. And don’t worry: Carbs are traditionally thought of as your body’s main source of energy, but your body also has the ability to fuel from fat, so if you’re increasing your fat and protein intake, your body doesn’t need as many carbs to run. You still need some amount of carbohydrates to regulate certain biological processes, like your muscles’ ability to stay hydrated and maintain structural integrity, so don’t cut the macronutrient completely, Seedman warns. For a high-fat, low-carb diet, aim for at least .5 of your bodyweight (so a 200 lb person would eat at least 100 grams of carbs per day), he suggests. For a more balanced calorie-restricted diet, that number jumps to .75 to 1.5 grams per pound of bodyweight.
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.
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.
1. Don’t starve yourself: Cortisol—that stress hormone that causes your body to store more fat—is elevated from circumstances of high stress, including extreme dieting, Seedman says. “If you start dropping calories excessively, your body goes into starvation mode and it becomes stressed. You’re in caloric deprivation, but that elevated cortisol causes you to gain body fat in your stomach—it’s a vicious cycle,” he adds.
To avoid feeling hungry after a workout, eat a snack with at least 12 grams of protein before exercising, says Dr. Cheskin. And if you’re still hungry afterward? First, check in with yourself and make sure it’s actual hunger and not dehydration, says Dr. Cheskin. Then, eat a protein-rich snack that also includes some carbs, like a protein bar with whole grains.
4. Eat more protein: Upping your protein is crucial for shedding fat. For starters, the macronutrient helps keep you full, preventing overeating and extraneous calories. And without adequate amounts of the macronutrient, muscle protein synthesis is diminished, your muscles can’t rebuild bigger and stronger, and your resting metabolism is lowered, says nutrition specialist and exercise physiologist, Marta Montenegro, CSCS, adjunct professor in Exercise & Sports Sciences at Florida International University. Plus, it gives your calorie burn a little boost since protein takes more energy for your body to process than carbs or fat.
The combination of exercise and healthy foods & drinks obviously cannot fail. Better yet, it solves one of the main food-related problems today: the excessive consumption of soda (especially in the USA). For many people, it is the only thing they drink (instead of water). If you are like this, switching from sugary sodas to red tea alone makes a huge difference to your body. But then you also detoxify it, so the effects are even greater.
There are a variety of definitions of what moderate-intensity exercise is, but it typically falls between about 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, which would be a level 4 to 6 on a 10-point perceived exertion scale. That means you are breathing harder than normal but can carry on a conversation without much difficulty and you feel pretty comfortable with what you're doing. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) often recommends this level of intensity in its exercise guidelines. The lower end of this range usually incorporates the fat burning zone.
5. Reduce your stress levels: Working out and eating right can help keep cortisol from running rampant in your body, but if you spend your 9-to-5 stressed to the max, levels of this hormone are going to shoot through the roof regardless. Study after study shows one of the healthiest things you can do for your waistline (as well as your happiness and life span) is to minimize the amount of stress you encounter every day. Incorporate zen activities like yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises into your day to help teach you to control spikes of stress when they come up.
The most basic approach to weight loss is burning more calories than you consume. For instance, since 3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat, a weight loss app—or even just a pen and paper—can help you decide how many calories you need to cut from your diet or burn at the gym in order to meet your goals. “If you were to burn 500 more calories per day 7 days a week, that would lead to 3,500 calories in a week and 1 pound of weight loss,” says Gagliardi.
If you're not up for crunching numbers every day, you can take a more generalized approach. “For some people, it’s knowing, ‘Typically I eat a whole sandwich,’” says Gagliardi. “Now, I’m going to eat half a sandwich at lunch and save the other half for my dinner and cut my calories in half." To get started, consider these 25 ways to cut 500 calories a day.
You know that your cardio sessions are crucial when it comes to burning the layer of fat sitting on top of your abdominal muscles. But it's still important to work those abs even as you're trying to shed fat, says New York City-based personal trainer Adam Sanford, founder of Adam Sanford Fitness. His favorite move to do that? Holding plank on a BOSU ball.
6. Fast once a week: While regularly underfeeding your body completely messes with your hormone balance, there’s sufficient research to suggest that intermittent fasting (IF)—or going without any food for set intervals—can actually help your insulin sensitivity and burn more fat. Researchers at LSU, for example, found that when people fasted all day, every other day, their fat oxidation increased and they actually lost 4 percent of their body fat in just 22 days. There are a lot of ways to go about IF, from fasting for 12 to 16 hours every day, to going 24 hours once a week. (Learn more about it here.)