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5 Things Keeping You From a Flatter Stomach

Saturday, May 30, 2009

by Allure Magazine, on Mon May 18, 2009 9:43am PDT

One thousand crunches a day? Don’t waste your time. Instead, the best way to get a flatter stomach involves a few clever changes to your diet and workout…and about 970 fewer sit-ups.

By Jenny Bailly

The quest for flat abs knows no shame (or too much indolence). For proof, behold the Abs in a Box kit. It contains semipermanent body stain, eight shadow and highlighting powders, and a booklet explaining how to use the above to create a six-pack—all for $69. Which would be a bargain if those abs were real. But attaining flat abs isn’t a matter of painting by numbers—or even of executing a mind-numbing series of crunches. Consider this: Stomach flab is easier to lose than the padding on your butt and thighs; commit to shedding a few pounds, and the ones around your waist disappear first. Once they’re gone, a judicious mix of ab moves can carve out smooth, visible muscles over time—and not just for the genetically preprogrammed. Here, five ways to create your own (genuine) ab masterpiece.

Problem: You have too much fat all over.

You could have Jessica Alba’s muscle structure and nothing to show for it if you’re carrying around extra pounds. “No one’s ever going to see those strong muscles as long as a layer of fat sits on top of them,” says personal trainer Gunnar Peterson, who works with Jennifer Lopez and Gisele Bundchen. Interval training is the most effective way to exercise. A study in the International Journal of Obesity found that women who put in 20 minutes on a stationary bike three times a week—but alternated 8-second bursts of speedy pedaling with 12-second rest periods— trimmed more from their midsections over 15 weeks than those who cycled at a slower, but steady, pace for 40 minutes. Researchers believe that interval training triggers the body to release adrenaline, a hormone that tells the body to burn stored fat—which is often found in the stomach area.

5 weight-loss tips you've never heard before

Problem: You’re eating the wrong food

Without the right diet, even the most rigorous cardio regimen is useless. “That means cutting calories,” says Susan B. Roberts, a professor of nutrition and psychiatry at Tufts University in Boston and author of The Instinct Diet (Workman Publishing Company). And there are tricks that help, too. Drinking coffee—when part of a weight-loss diet—may also trim the stomach slightly, and the caffeine may speed up the metabolism. Roberts suggests one to three cups of coffee a day.

Dairy’s role in weight loss is controversial (some studies have shown a strong connection; others haven’t). On the pro side: In a University of Tennessee study, overweight adults on a low-calorie diet who had 1,100 milligrams of calcium daily lost 81 percent more stomach fat than those who got only 400 to 500 milligrams of calcium per day. Getting three daily servings of dairy is a reasonable goal, says Michael B. Zemel, director of the Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee.

What to avoid? White, starchy carbohydrates top the list. People who chose white bread over whole grains gained about half an inch around the middle every year, according to a study from the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University.

Eating more of these foods will help you shed pounds.

Problem: You’re doing the wrong moves

“Crunches only work the superficial muscles at the front of your torso,” says Shawn McCormack, director of and head instructor at the Body, a Manhattan fitness studio. “They don’t do anything for the muscles that run around the entire core of your body like a corset, or the oblique muscles along your sides.” These are the muscles that act like your body’s own Spanx, drawing your midsection up and in. One of the best ways to strengthen them is by holding a simple plank position. For an extra challenge, lift your hips up an inch or two and then move them back.

Pilates moves are powerful ab sculptors, says Michele Olson, professor of exercise physiology at Auburn University in Montgomery, Alabama. In a study pitting mat-based Pilates moves against crunches, the Pilates exercises were all more effective on the abs than crunches were. Crunches can still be one part of your routine, but doing them ad nauseam is an exercise in futility. Two to five sets of 15 to 20 reps are plenty.

Problem: You only use your abdominal muscles rarely

Whether you’re on the treadmill or doing push-ups, your navel should feel like it’s being pulled toward your spine as your ribs drop slightly toward your pelvis. “Breathing deeply, in through your nose and out through your mouth, is the best way to keep your core muscles contracted and engaged in any workout,” says Laurie Cole, an instructor at SoulCycle, a cycling studio in New York City. And it should extend beyond the gym. “My abs are always activated,” says personal trainer Kacy Duke. This not only strengthens the torso over time but also improves posture, which instantly minimizes bulges.


Problem: Your genes aren’t solely to blame.

Fat distribution is at least 30 percent—maybe as much as 60 percent—determined by genetics. But biology isn’t necessarily destiny. Though scientists have identified specific genes that affect the propensity to store fat around the middle or in the hips and thighs, any gene pool can be overcome. “You’ll probably have to do more work to maintain a flat stomach, but biology doesn’t rule how you exercise or what you eat,” says Olson.

7 Fitness Tips from Celebrity Trainer Seven
November 06, 2008

t never fails: Every winter, I OD on Halloween candy and ditch the gym for holiday parties. It's not healthy and it's not pretty.

This time, I'm determined to look great at the gazillion holiday cocktail shindigs. To help me get on the right track, I asked Seven, a Miami based Bally Total Fitness and celebrity trainer for her tips:

Q. What's a typical session for your female clients?
A. We start with 30 minutes of intense cardio as a warm up, and then move to weight lifting. For women, doing cardio first is a must--it gives you lean, defined muscles. I finish each workout with ten minutes of yoga.

Q. Do you change it up before a client's red carpet event?
A. I add ten minutes to her cardio and more workout days to the week leading up to an event. We also focus on muscle groups depending on the style of her dress. If she's wearing strapless, we work on defining her shoulders, and if she's wearing backless, we do extra back exercises.

Q. What activities do you recommend on the "off" days?
A. Do what you love: Yoga, kickboxing, jogging, or even just a walk in the park with your dog. Anything that keeps your muscles moving.

Q. What's your best move for abs?
A. Lie on your back, raise your arms and your legs up to the ceiling (so you look like a 'U' shape from the side. Keep your chin up to the ceiling at all times. Exhale and reach your fingers up to your toes, counting from 25 to 1, inhale on your way down. In the same position, reach toward your left toe and then alternate to your right, counting from 25 to one in each direction. Do three to four sets of each every day.

Q. Best butt move?
A. An old school squat gives the fastest results. Stand at the bottom of your staircase with your feet hip-width apart. "Fake sit"—just a booty tap—on the second-to-last step, then stand up. Do 20 reps and at least four sets.

Q. Your best tip ever?
A. Get a calendar and mark huge red X's on workout days. This makes reality set in faster than you think, because you have the bad days staring you in the face. Reality can be the best motivator.

Q. How do you motivate your lazy clients?
A. I tell them to suck it up! I remind them of their goals and why they're here to see me. They're always grateful at the end of a workout.


Thanks, Seven! I might have to come down to Miami soon so you can kick my butt into shape this winter.

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