Great question — many people wonder how to go about shaping up the abs. It requires more than abdominal strengthening; you’ll also need to make sustainable changes to what you eat — and how much — in addition to tweaking your overall training plan. Here are some tips for getting started:
• Substitute whole grains for refined grains whenever possible. Research shows that people who eat at least 3 servings of whole grains and who limit consumption of refined grain products to <1 serving/day have 10% less abdominal fat compared to people who eat more refined grains and fewer whole grains.
• Consult a registered dietitian for personalized nutrition recommendations; you’ll need a meal plan that gives you the energy you need for your active lifestyle while allowing for gradual weight loss to help trim your spare tire — and keep it off.
• Core training improves strength, endurance, and stability in your abdominals, back, pelvis, and hips — in addition to improving the appearance of your abs. Some of my favorite core exercises include front and side planks and variations on planks, stability ball crunches, and bird dogs; explore the ACE Exercise Library for more ideas, including a complete core workout.
• Consider adding high intensity cardiovascular training to your fitness routine. This type of training — especially when done in an interval-training format — has been found to be especially effective in reducing abdominal and overall body fat. With higher intensity comes higher risk; so check with your doctor and establish a base level of fitness before increasing your training intensity gradually; and don’t perform high-intensity training more than 1-2x/week. For best results, work with a certified personal trainer to establish a safe and effective training plan.