Want a flat stomach? You’re not alone. in 2010, the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery found 144,929 women had abdominoplasy (tummy tucks), and more than twice that number, 289,016, underwent lipoplasty (liposuction).
Those statistics are pretty scary. But what’s even scarier is a lot of these women will have gone through all that expense, pain, and inconvenience for nothing. If they don’t eat and exercise properly after the surgery, the fat will return and they’ll need another surgery to keep their stomach flat.
The good news is getting, and keeping, a flat stomach isn’t as torturous as people think. You don’t have to exercise for several hours, do 1000 sit-ups a day, or suffer with a diet of bread and toothpicks. You just need to eat wisely, and do the right exercises, exercises that meet the unique needs of the female body.
Abdominals and Your Core: It’s Not What You Think
There is a lot more behind that handful of love handle than you think. What is important is to understand the anatomy and function of the abdominals in order to exercise them properly. Abdominal muscles are divided into four main groups:
Your ‘Six Pack’
These muscles are called your rectus abdominis. Found between your ribs and the pubic bone at the front of your pelvis, these six bumps are actually two muscles, separated by a linea alba (a midline of connective tissue), covered by a rectus sheath, and three fibrous bands.
The rectus abdominis moves the area of your body between your ribs and pelvis. They flex your spine, an example would be when preforming a crunch, and they move the pelvis toward your ribcage, known as a posterior pelvic tilt. An example would be a leg-hip raise. These muscles also assist with breathing, keeping the internal organs in place, and also helps create intra-abdominal pressure when under great strain, such as during childbirth.
Just inside your hipbones, along your rectus abdominis, you’ll find the internal oblique muscles. They run diagonally across your body and act as ‘same side’ rotators to help you move your torso. When rotating your body to the right, the right internal oblique muscle creates and controls that motion.
The external oblique muscles run on each side of the rectus abdominis, perpendicular to your internal obliques. They allow your body to twist at the trunk. These muscles connect to the lower eight ribs at the top, and to the anterior crest of your pelvis and the linea alba, medially and distally. They work opposite to your internal obliques. When twisting your midsection to the left, the right obliques contract.
Underneath many other muscle layers is a layer of muscles that has nothing to do with movement. Instead, the transversus abdominis muscles wrap around your vital internal organs to keep them in place. They also keep your waist tight, stablize your trunk, and help you expel air from your lungs when you breathe.
Contrary to popular belief, the core is composed of many muscles. A general term would be the body minus the arms and legs. The major muscles included are the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, a series of muscles in the back that runs along the spine, known as the multifidus and the diaphragm. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus, and trapezius All of these muscles work together to prevent injury and support your back when sitting, standing, bending over, and just plain moving.
Your Abs Cannot Do It Alone
Many people believe that in order to obtain a flat stomach, you should be doing a lot of crunches and sit-ups each day. Unfortunately, they couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, your abdominal muscles aren’t the problem at all.
If you want to show off your six-pack, you have to get rid of the padding covering them. Let’s use the analogy of a group of balloons under a thick, heavy pile of clothes and blankets. You have no idea where one balloon begins and the other ends. Put them under a sheet, and you’ll easily see the individual balloons.
It’s the same with your abdominals. Get rid of the fat covering your muscles, and you’ll see your six-pack.
Routines with isolation exercises have this problem, (other than boring you to tears and making the routine tough to stick to) your body adapts. The body is a master adaptor and will become accustomed to the repetitive sit-ups or crunches. You will stop burning fat the way you may have been in the beginning and this halt will happen very rapidly. You’ll quickly reach a plateau and will stop achieving any results.
Break the Tummy Trouble Myths
People often think of belly fat as being stubborn and hard to get rid of, but it’s really no harder to get rid of than any other fat. There is no abnormality in abdominal fat. It is not made up of any special material and it certainly is not lost in any special way. Some people simply store more fat in their midsection than anywhere else. So, to get rid of it, burn fat from your entire body. Of course there are faster and more effective ways to do just that.
Eat Your Way To A Flat Stomach
What you eat and when you eat it can have a huge impact on your weight loss goals. Your Glycemic Index (GI) is a great example. The GI is a scale that measures the effects a particular food has on your blood sugar levels. If a particular food makes your blood sugar rise significantly, it’s given a high number on the GI scale. This isn’t a good thing, however. When you blood sugar rises, your body tells itself to produce more insulin, and so signals the body to store the sugar that isn’t needed for immediate use.
This doesn’t mean you can’t eat something high on the GI scale. It just means you need to be smart about what you eat and when. Consume high GI foods after a workout, when your body needs higher blood sugar levels to move nutrients and proteins to your muscles to help it recover. In fact, you should always have foods high in protein and carbohydrates after a workout.
The typical American diet today abuses the use of carbohydrates. They use carbohydrates as stimulates, when they should be used for energy to preform exercises and to recover after exercise.
Carbohydrates are energy, and fat is stored energy. Your body uses insulin to store that energy, and when it has no need for the energy you consume, it gets stored as fat.
Bottom line, the foods we eat and the method behind the exercises we perform directly affects our ability to lose weight around our midsection. Without proper exercise, and proper nutrition, we can kiss our sexy six-pack good bye. Learn what to eat, when to eat it and what type of workout you need to shed that unwanted flab, and you will be showing off your sexy stomach for years to come.