By Jessica Morris
As a personal trainer, if there’s one complaint I hear more than any other, it’s that people can’t lose belly fat. And I admit, it’s a tricky area. Even if you’re super fit, if you have a tendency to store fat around your middle, any underlying muscle won’t show through. What’s more, genetics play a role in where you store fat; worryingly, those who have a more ‘apple’ shape are more prone to heart disease than ‘pears,’ and for people over 40, as metabolism slows, your body clings to whatever fatty cells it can – and many of those are around your middle, so belly fat is hard to lose.
Belly busting involves two key factors: cutting down on calories to lose fat, and strengthening ab muscles.But a strong core isn’t purely for appearance – your abdominal muscles help you balance, correct your posture and even give you confidence. Abdominals can be a tough area for many people. While diet plays a critical role in the appearance of your abs, strengthening them will help you to function better on a day-to-day basis (and will also have heads turning when you’re at the beach!) Here are my top 5 belly-busting exercises that you can do anywhere: at the gym, home or even while travelling.
Anterior and Posterior Tilt
How to do it: An anterior tilt involves arching your low back so that your tailbone is high to the sky. Inhale here. As you exhale, squeeze your legs, glutes and abs while you crunch your abs. Try 10x for beginners and 15-20 for advanced.
What to avoid: Allowing for loose arms, glutes and legs. Your entire body should feel tight, strong and balanced.
Single Leg Plank With Alternating Legs
To do: Set yourself up into a plank positing. Arms aligning under your shoulders and legs should-width apart. Tilt your pelvis under so you feel your glutes and abs fully engage. Once you feel balanced, try to lift one leg off the ground and hold it for 10 seconds (for beginners) or up to 30 seconds (advanced.) Switch to the opposite leg.
What to avoid: Moving your hips side to side. Your hips should remain stable and even throughout the entire exercise. Avoid lifting your leg from your low back, instead, lift from your glutes.
Side Plank (Obliques)
How to do: Stack your legs and feet on top of one another while balancing on one arm. Your palm should align itself directly underneath your shoulder. Ensure you keep your hips as high as possible to engage your obliques. Hold for 30 second to a minute per side. Maintain a neutral neck—try looking directly in front of you. Choosing a point of focus will help with balance and concentration.
What to avoid: Dropping your hips towards the floor, looking up at the ceiling or directly down at the floor.
How to do: Laying on your back with your low back making direct contact with the floor throughout the entire exercise, begin to lift opposing elbow to knee, while extending the opposite leg straight—and reverse. Keep your vision up at the ceiling to protect your neck. Try 10 per side for beginners and 20 per side for advanced.
What to avoid: Straining your neck by looking down. Not fully extending the opposite leg.
Lying Leg Lifts
How to do: Begin by lying on your back, on the floor. Maintain contact between your low back and the floor throughout the entire exercise. Begin by placing your hands beside your hips/glutes and push your palms into the floor to help maintain balance in the exercise.
Tighten your legs and squeeze your inner thighs so that they make direct contact with one another. Begin to slowly lift your legs off the ground, and lower them back down without touching the ground. Repeat 10x for beginners and 20-25x for advanced.
What do avoid: Lifting your low back off the floor.
Jessica Morris is a nutritional practitioner and personal trainer with a specialty in body composition, natural nutrition and longevity. See more about her here.