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You Asked: How Do I Tone My Lower Abs?

7SHARES

By: , SparkPeople Blogger
11/14/2008 10:01 AM   :  68 comments

SparkPeople member BUTTERFLIY recently asked a very common fitness question: "I have a lot of weight under my belly button! How and what can I do to work the lower part of my belly?"

This is a very common complaint for women. We naturally hold a little bit of extra fat on our lower bellies—it's a lot more common (and normal) than you might think. But at the same time, we see so many (albeit unrealistic) images of flat and toned abs on women—and we think there's something wrong with us for not looking the same way. Body image issues aside, there is a two-part answer to this question that might actually surprise you...

First off, there is no such thing as "upper" and "lower" abs. Unfortunately, there are many trainers and fitness instructors that perpetuate the myth of upper and lower abs—maybe because they don't know better themselves, or because they tell clients what they want to hear. Your rectus abdominis (or abs, for short) runs down the front of the torso, from the center of the ribcage to the pubic bone. It is one long sheet of muscle that just happens to look like several small muscles. This is due to a unique feature called "tendinous inscriptions." These inscriptions run across the muscle and down the center, giving it that "6-pack" (but more accurately, 8-pack) appearance.

If the abs is one muscle, then why do certain exercises seem to target different areas? Actually, all abdominal exercises target the entire muscle, but during some exercises, you just happen to feel it in one region of the muscle a little more. That means that all types of abdominal exercises will target the whole abs muscle, no matter where you might feel the exercise. As far as strengthening and toning the abs goes, aim for a variety of exercises. The abs are like any other muscle, so you don't need to do hundreds of repetitions for a good workout—when you do an exercise correctly, you shouldn't be able to do a thousand reps anyway. Rest 1-2 days between each abs workout to give those muscles a chance to repair and strengthen. For effective workout ideas, click here.

Now for the second part to this answer. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as spot training, so all the crunches in the world won't help you lose weight from your lower belly. While the strengthening and toning part (above) is important, it doesn't burn the fat that covers the muscles. Cardio exercise, in combination with a healthy diet, will burn fat from all over the body. So don't leave out this very important step.

The last thing I'll mention is to be realistic. Very, very few women have abdominal definition or a completely flat belly (myself included). A little bit of lower tummy is perfectly normal—it's what gives women that soft, curvy and even voluptuous look. But it's not impossible to tone up your tummy and improve its appearance. With cardio, a healthy diet, and a variety of strengthening exercises, every woman can help tighten and flatten her belly.

Which part of your body is your biggest trouble zone? What are you doing to improve it?


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Comments

  • 68
    Strength training tones the muscle and cardio helps to reduce the fat layer so the muscle definition can be seen. I don't look at myself as a puzzle of areas that have to be "fixed" or "changed". When I stopped working out, [family issues and not placing my own well being first], I gained weight and lost tone...and I am now having to work my whole body harder to regain what I have lost. A lesson I won't soon forget - 1/6/2011   3:17:02 AM
  • PSYCH90
    67
    For me it's my hips, thighs and butt. I really just need to lose the fat off the area. Though I would like to ton my arms too :) - 1/5/2011   7:29:23 PM
  • 66
    My belly is the biggest part of my body. As a matter of fact my the fat that is around my midsection makes my butt look flat. I cannot find a pair of pants that actually fit me because if it fits in the butt is doesnt around the waste, and if it fits in the waist it doesnt in the butt. I actually look like I am pregnant. Now I do stregnth training videos for my core on sparkpeople, but I focus alot on cardio. The main reason for the stregnth training is to tone my belly and improve my core muscles. - 5/27/2010   10:43:15 AM
  • 65
    I can live with belly fat..my butt is the major problem! It just keeps getting bigger as other places get smaller! I think it is truely genetic with me, though, because all the women in my family seem to have a big butt. I wish this wasn't so.. - 4/28/2010   7:04:34 PM
  • 64
    Argh this is what i've been searching for... I hate my belly!!!!

    The answer is; keep up the hard work, i guess. Here we go then ! - 3/28/2010   3:41:16 PM
  • 63
    It's the part between my abs to my knees that I need to define more, to get more strength. Maybe it's genetic. - 3/1/2010   12:50:21 AM
  • 62
    Wish a had boobs! And get rid of the lower tummy bulge! - 10/11/2009   7:37:07 PM
  • 61
    I am a pear shape and have always been heavy and needed work on my lower body. Through college weight gain I have acquired a belly and hate it! I too always thought there was a lower and upper abdominal...figures you pay for a trainer and they don't even tell you the truth! Thanks Spark People!! - 6/26/2009   1:01:53 PM
  • DTURMND22
    60
    My tummy is definitely a problem area.However, I know spot treatment doesnt work. I am hoping to be able to coach to the 5k and lose a lot. I am just doing the walking now. I try not to look at one spot, I try to be healthy overall because I have tried focusing on one area then I would get discouraged when I never met my goal - 6/25/2009   1:34:19 AM
  • 59
    I highly recommend all women to watch "How To Look Good Naked". There is an American version with Carson Kressly from "Queer Eye For The Straight Guy" as well as a UK version that is equally helpful. It's amazing how clouded our self images are. It seems as though ALL women add pounds and inches to what they see in the mirror compared to what their measurements reveal as the truth. By the end of each show, after in your face realizations and hints to dress, each women sees themselves as beautiful and gains an incredible confidence. We could all use a Carson Kressly on our shoulder telling us how wrong we see ourselves. It's an amazing show!!!! Please watch it my Spark friends. Your problem areas won't seem so problematic. - 6/24/2009   11:03:09 AM
  • JJBOWEN428
    58
    After reading these comments, I realized that I have some serious work that needs to be done with my BODY IMAGE, not my abs. After reading comment after comment about womens "problem areas", I realized how irratating it must make my family and loved ones feel to hear me obsess. This article WAS great though, and I think if you feel "hopeless" from hearing the truth, you have unrealistic expectations. I totally agree with DAURTHLAURIE! Now, love-handles...that is a different story.
    I totally believe in eating healthy, and trying to eat low sodium, and keep processed foods to a minimum, but sacrificing ALL DAY every day, (not saying that anyone here is) for the sake of vanity, well that is punishment! Eat HEALTHY, think healthy, and exercise to be HEALTHY, and then your body will be at its best! Whether it is what you see on the cover of Self or not. - 6/24/2009   8:56:00 AM
  • 57
    My stomach is the one thing I want to change most. Much of my extra weight is around the belly. I feel the bit of fat on the rest of me appears healthy for my age.

    When I was younger, I could do crunches quite well. About 20 years ago, I began getting spells of dizziness that a trip to the chiropractor helped. But since then, when I do regular 'sit ups' it seems to trigger the dizziness.

    I now have a hard time doing leg lifts or any core exercises. But, I'm finding ways to do a core workout without doing 'sit ups'. My goal is to carefully try new exercises and eventually get that core strength back, and get to a weight appropriate for my age.

    If anybody else has had this happen, one thing I have found to be a good core workout is kayaking. It's been awhile since my family has been out kayaking; so again, I need new ways to workout the core and yet not trigger equilibrium episodes. - 6/23/2009   7:24:13 PM
  • SHANN1530
    56
    Abs are made in the kitchen!

    I wish that I could just exercise my way to a 6 pack but it's so much more than that - healthy eating is required for overall weight loss and muscle definition -- especially womens abs.

    Try not to be discouraged by the article - I don't think that's what it was meant to do. It was just setting realistic expectations for how to have flat abs - a combo of cardio, weight training, and a healthy diet. But we all knew that already, I bet :) - 6/3/2009   2:09:02 PM
  • RACHELTESTA
    55
    Thank you! Thank you! I absolutely loved this blog! I'm a trainer and instructor and get this question ALL the time! I say pretty much the same thing to each person over and over. I'm hoping to change the perceptions one person at a time, so it's so nice to see another fitness professional preaching the same thing on such a wide network! The only other information I provide is I also explain about internal and external obliques and the transverse abdominals and that their ab routine should incorporate movements for all ab muscles. But again, THANK YOU! It's nice to know the sparkpeople are well educated! - 4/16/2009   10:29:15 AM
  • 54
    Actually, I'm wondering about the transverse abdominis - the deeper muscle that holds everything in - would working this particular muscle help with lower belly bulge? - 3/5/2009   10:00:35 AM
  • 53
    I found this article very interesting, it certainly explains a lot. I struggle the most with my stomach and legs, it does seem like I have a lot of muscle in both places but it is just covered in fat, it is nice to know that all of my hard work isn't for nothing and that my body just needs to decide to lose some fat around my stomach. My favorite exercise is bicycle crunches, they seem to be the most effective to me, and I don't like to do straight leg lifts but I'll do them because they are a challenge to me and seem like they are very effective. - 11/18/2008   8:53:10 AM
  • 52
    Oh man, everything between my belly button and my knees! My upper body and calves look like they belong to a totally different person! For some reason my thighs, bum and belly just hang onto weight more. I would be happy to get everything into proportion! - 11/17/2008   9:56:07 PM
  • 51
    DIVEGODDESS seems to have the only real information that may help. I already have a belly that hangs down and recently had surgery where I was cut open from navel to pelvis so my stomach muscles are gone. I am working hard to rebuild them, doing crunches and cardio, but to read this original article was downright depressing and made me want to just give up. - 11/17/2008   9:57:14 AM
  • CAZ_NR_HEATHROW
    50
    I no longer consider that I have any problem areas. I learnt early on when I joined Sparks that going hammer and tongs on one specific area is not the answer.
    However there are some exercises I enjoy more depending on the mood I'm in, and doing these makes me feel better about myself; like crunches or using dumb bells to tone up generally. I always have music on to workout to, it keeps a steady pace going.
    I love my body now.......especially AFTER a sweaty workout LOL. - 11/17/2008   6:04:49 AM
  • CHARMEDTWOBITS
    49
    I exercise my lower abs with belly dancing. Its a blast and a whole body workout that is natural for a woman.
    hugs, CharmedTwoBits - 11/16/2008   5:11:22 PM
  • 48
    My whole stomach not just the lower part. It's probably my diet more than my exercising that is keeping my from my goal. - 11/16/2008   4:53:01 PM
  • 47
    I am well rounded from my chin to my knees! I also didn't know that the abs was only 1 muscle. I am trying to eat better and be more active, by doing cardio and some exercises. I'm not real regular, so that is something I am working on also. - 11/16/2008   1:08:04 PM
  • 46
    All parts south of the waist...lol..... My neice once told her mother that when she looked into the mirror after a shower that her abs looked like the smiley face at Walmart..I have as of yet to walk into that store without thinking of that and give a big ole grin myself!!! - 11/16/2008   10:49:22 AM
  • 45
    After having four kids, ages 10, 8, 7, and 3 I think that lil pooch below my belly button is here to stay... But I sure would like for it to be gone. I think it is half fat, and half stretched out skin... - 11/16/2008   10:14:42 AM
  • 44
    LOL - The link for the blog about "Zero Waste" follows yours. I had to check for a play on words ie "Zero Waist".

    The part below my belly button is also a little larger than the part above. I like it! - 11/16/2008   8:00:27 AM
  • 43
    I can only pick one????? LOLOL - 11/16/2008   6:01:19 AM
  • 42
    This is a trouble spot for me as well. - 11/16/2008   5:26:56 AM
  • 41
    UGH. I try to think of weight as a simple function of health and avoid vanity as much as possible, but this topic is a doozy for me. My organs/pelvis are tilted so that regardless of my body fat percentage, I always appear a bit convex, rather than concave. We can't have it all, but this one always peeves me. - 11/16/2008   5:09:05 AM
  • 40
    As one Sparker who had gotten to her goal told me "When you have hanging skin, just cover it up with your SMALL SIZE NEW CLOTHES." LOL - 11/16/2008   1:06:52 AM
  • 39
    I know soooo many people that think doing abdominal exercises are going to get them a flat stomach, when the truth is, if the exercise works you will still see it as a problem area, because you'll be gaining muscle that is covered by the fat.

    My lower is body is the worst area for me. I have a lot of trouble when I buy pants, because I always have to wear a belt. I have to buy them bigger in the waist than my waist actually is because they have to get up over my bum and hips. Diet, diet, diet. That's the most important. And to lift weights to get muscle to burn more calories rather than working out like a hamster doing cardio. - 11/16/2008   12:23:25 AM
  • 38
    I have had four children: 23, 19, 14 & 6...God knows I have developed and lost troubled areas throughout my life but it seems that my age has caught up to me and it's much harder to lose weight since my son was born when I was 38 yrs old. I bounced back quickly after each of my girls but my life was different, I was much younger and more active then. Being 44 yrs old the midlife spread has affected me and I can honestly say that my midsection is my most difficult spot. Thank you so much for the article! - 11/15/2008   7:17:47 PM
  • DEBRAJP
    37
    I have so much loose flab on my upper arem, belly and legs. I am 52 years old and know I will never look like a model but would love to lose some of this flab. I still have about 80 lbs to lose and am worried the flab will just get worse as I lose the weight. Can't afford any plastic surgery. Help. - 11/15/2008   2:53:14 PM
  • GIANT-STEPS
    36
    As others have said, women are supposed to have more bodyfat than men. As hard as it is for a man to 6 pack abs it is doubly hard for women and truthfully it is probably unhealthy for women to get this lean.

    One distinction I do wish the article made was between visceral and subcutaneous fat. Visceral fat is the fat around our organs and subcutaneous fat is underneath our skin. We all have both. The classic "beer belly" in men where they have a large but firm belly is caused by large amounts of visceral fat but not much subcutaneous fat on top of their abs. Men with such bellies often claim that because their belly is hard that is "all muscle" when in fact visceral fat is the most dangerous kind since it tends to lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, etc.

    One thing I don't understand is what factors cause one to loose more subcutaneous fat vs. visceral fat. The last time I lost weight it seemed that I lost more subcutaneous fat because my tummy was still firm; this time I seem to have lost more visceral fat and I seem to have a jelly belly. - 11/15/2008   12:21:44 PM
  • 35
    I have a fluctuating tummy pooch, depending on the time of day/month it is...which is typical for most women, especially those of us who have had children. It's just a part of being a woman IMO.....I don't over stress about it, keep doing my cardio and other workouts and feel good in the fact that after all the weight at 40 I lost I'm as firm as I am, because I could have been dealing with a lot more "droop". - 11/15/2008   8:36:48 AM
  • 34
    My lower body is my problem area. I inherited it from my dad's side. Oh well, at least I have a lower chance of heart disease. ;)

    My abdomen fluctuates throughout the day. In the morning, it could be 2 inches smaller than at night. - 11/15/2008   1:39:49 AM
  • 33
    I find it sad that so many women look at their bellies with hatred or even calling them "problem areas." Our bellies are the centers for our creativity, whether it's artistic or problem solving. Our bellies shelter and nurture not only fetuses, but our hopes and dreams. We should look at the stretch marks, scars, and yes, even the fat as part of our amazing history as women. We shouldn't let anyone, least of all ourselves, to say that our beautiful round bellies are anything less than perfect the way they are. When we look on our bellies with love, we're nurturing ourselves and we're teaching our children, especially our daughters that their bellies are also beautiful the way they are. Our bellies are meant to be round, and I for one am grateful for my belly and I will strive to encourage belly love wherever I am...because we deserve to love ourselves, and that love extends to our remarkable, wonderful bellies! - 11/14/2008   10:50:47 PM
  • BYHISSTRENGTH
    32
    The lower part of my abs is always the hardest for me to get rid of, even when I was at my smallest I had a hard time with it. However, I eat a lot smarter now than I did back then so I can see myself improving a bit.

    I do strength training and have a ab machine that works great for me, as long as I am consistant with it I see good results, when I stop is when I mess up, I also incorporate a lot of walking into my fitness program. I do want to add more cardio and try to add 5 minutes each week so I can reach 60 minutes 4-5 days a week. - 11/14/2008   8:50:55 PM
  • 31
    I would say my lower body is my trouble zone as this is the area that I cannot visually see the toning for all the work I have been doing. I will keep working though because I know I am stronger than I was a year ago. - 11/14/2008   7:55:59 PM
  • MYGEORGE
    30
    Thanks for the timing of this article. - 11/14/2008   6:35:34 PM
  • 29
    My stomach is my problem area. I hate the fact that I can finally fit into a size that I'm happy with when it comes to my pants, but they cause muffin top so I need to wear loose fiting tops to cover that. If I buy pants that fit more of my waist, their huge on my legs...It's a no win situation. - 11/14/2008   6:09:34 PM
  • 28
    I still have a little pouch on my lower stomach. i try so many excerise . I had a c section with my daughter - 11/14/2008   5:54:41 PM
  • 27
    I need to lose it in my waist after 3 kids@ This article was interesting! - 11/14/2008   4:46:30 PM
  • GROOVYKARMA1
    26
    I found this article very discouraging. This should have been written to encourage not discourage. I have heard of people retaining their prepregnancy shape with hard work and exercise (not surgery). - 11/14/2008   3:26:30 PM
  • 25
    ARGH! I actually thought I could exercise myself to a flat belly! - 11/14/2008   2:38:18 PM
  • TOWLADY72A
    24
    My belly and thighs are my problem area. I have started walking more and watching what I eat. I have gone almost 3 wks with out soda and Mt Dew is an addiction! It's nice to know that there isn't upper and lower abs! - 11/14/2008   2:28:26 PM
  • BALLANDCHAIN83
    23
    My abs and inner thighs are my big problem. I would love to tone them up. - 11/14/2008   2:06:41 PM
  • 22
    Actually... it is kindda depressing to know that regardless of how much hard work I do, how much 'dieting' I do (healthy eating, avoiding junk food) or cardio I do, I still won't have those perfect abs? I don't know that I want to just accept that. How do I know if I AM 1 of those few who do? Do all the work? Almost doesn't seem worth it... uh. Now I'm depressed... :( - 11/14/2008   1:58:56 PM
  • 21
    I really would like a six-pack someday, but I recognize that the amount of work and diligence that goes into achieving that for a woman is VERY difficult. It requires a very low body fat percentage that is not exactly within the healthy range for the average person. Jillian Michaels was very honest in her book when she said she doesn't look ripped all of the time--she in fact has to go through a pretty intense week or two of shedding water weight to achieve that "toned" look. She straight up stated that no one can look that way all of the time. - 11/14/2008   1:51:19 PM
  • 20
    my stomach will always be my problem area. dang apple shape makes all of my extra fat hang out there. I've been doing lots of exercise to try to flatten and tone because I want a smaller tummy! =) - 11/14/2008   1:44:09 PM
  • RACHELMARIA
    19
    Agreed- I never knew abs were one long muscle, I thought they were an interconnected web of several muscles.
    Oh my darn hips drive me nutty. It's definitely the last place I lose, but I am starting to see small changes. And I'm not sure there's a specific thing I can do for them in particular other than just keep losing. - 11/14/2008   1:39:38 PM

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