One of the most common problem areas I hear about as a personal trainer is the belly. I hear it almost every day: How do I lose belly fat? How do I slim down my waist? How do I get a 6 pack? Not only are we concerned about the health risks associated with holding fat in our middle, but we care about how we look and feel. Almost everyone has heard that belly fat increases the risks of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. So for the purposes of this post, I am going to focus mainly on the things you can do to decrease the amount of weight carried in your middle.
Even though I am in the best shape I have ever been in, I still feel a little soft in the middle when my diet and exercise are not where they should be. So here are some pointers that I use for my own regimen to keep me in shape. First things first: nutrition! My first suggestion would be that if you have specific questions regarding nutrition and diet or if you need individual recommendations regarding your diet, please make an appointment with a dietitian. If you need a recommendation, please feel free to contact me. When it comes to diet, follow the basic principles of nutrition. When we talk specifically about belly fat and how it is affected by one’s diet, the truth is, if we lose weight and consume a cleaner diet, we will start to lose weight in our middle. So without going outside of my realm of expertise, my suggestion is: keep it clean. Drink plenty of water, eat lots of fruits and vegetables and eat lean protein. Steer clear of refined sugars, added salt, refined carbs, and saturated fats. These “dirty” foods can derail weight loss progress and increase our risks for disease.
There’s a big difference in lasting abdominal fitness and temporary abdominal fitness. By doing abdominal crunches an hour a day, you might get the quick fix results that give the appearance of core fitness but it’s only temporary. But by focusing on decreasing your body fat percentage through diet while at the same time improving strength in your transverse abdominis, you can get a more lasting affect which is what we all desire. The transverse abdominis, nicknamed the “corset muscle” not only keeps everything pulled in, it also helps create thoracic and pelvic stability. Which leads me into the next component: exercise. Before I even start, I am going to shatter some illusions that you can create the perfect midsection with certain abdominal exercises. There isn’t an exercise out there that can replace a combination of clean eating, commitment to regular exercise, core work, and genetics. You can strengthen your core by incorporating different exercises into your regular weight training and cardiovascular regimen. Referring back to my previous blog post, TRX is one of the best core workouts you can find. Not only does it provide a great full body workout, virtually every single exercise performed on the TRX incorporates core engagement. Another great format to improve core strength is Pilates. Again, the foundations of Pilates will provide you with certain breathing techniques coupled with exercises that engage the transverse abdominals.
I will elaborate on Pilates in next week’s blog post but I will tease you with one of my favorite Pilates exercises: criss cross (shown in photo). Begin lying flat on your back and extend one leg the length of the mat and slightly elevated off the floor. The other leg should be bent with the knee pulled in toward your chest. With your hands behind your head, reach the right elbow toward the left knee while reaching the left elbow up toward the top of your mat. Remember to press the low back into the mat keeping your belly tight at all times and control your breathing using deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. As you exhale, switch sides reaching your left elbow toward your right knee. Continue with this movement until you fatigue.