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You Asked: How Do I Tone My Lower Abs?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
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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CECELW 3/24/2021
i've read this before Report
BONNIE1552 3/22/2021
Thanks. Report
DIVAGLOW 1/18/2021
Thank you for sharing this. Report
Thank you. Report
Thank you so much for the information. Report
Thank you so much for the information. Report
Thank you so much for the information. Report
Thanks for the information. They say its hard area to loose after c-sections. Report
Thanks for sharing Report
Thanks! Report
Thanks Report
Thanks for the information Report
Thank you for these great tips! Report
I enjoy strength training over cardio actually. I feel like I get more done Report
Great Report
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 Report
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 :) Report
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. Report
I can live with belly 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.. Report
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 ! Report
It's the part between my abs to my knees that I need to define more, to get more strength. Maybe it's genetic. Report
Wish a had boobs! And get rid of the lower tummy bulge! Report
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!! Report
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 Report
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. Report
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. Report
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. Report
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 :) Report
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! Report
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? Report
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. Report
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! Report
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. Report
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. Report
I exercise my lower abs with belly dancing. Its a blast and a whole body workout that is natural for a woman.
hugs, CharmedTwoBits Report
My whole stomach not just the lower part. It's probably my diet more than my exercising that is keeping my from my goal. Report
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. Report
All parts south of the 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!!! Report
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... Report
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! Report
I can only pick one????? LOLOL Report
This is a trouble spot for me as well. Report
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. Report
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 Report
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. Report
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! Report