"What can I do about my stomach?!" "How do I get rid of my belly?!"
...These have to be some of my most frequently asked questions. Often the arms and legs adapt with training quickly, changing shape and showing muscle. The stomach however can sometimes be a bit more challenging.
If you have been training for a while, you have worked up to high intensity interval training, you've seen a drop in body fat on your arms and legs, but you are still not seeing the results you want in your stomach...
- How do you breath? Sounds simple, but actually breathing correctly can take some work. When we push the stomach out it is not supporting a FUNCTIONING core. Re-training the breath is one of the most important things you can do to get a flat stomach!
- Where do you feel it working (and do you) when performing ab exercises?
When our rectus abdominis (that "6 pack" outer layer of muscle on our stomach) is dominant, it often means our TA (that deep lower belly muscle responsible for pulling in our tummy and supporting our back) is not working correctly. We need to re-train how we are using our ab muscles, and it is really important to look at the ab exercises you are currently doing!
- Doing 100s of sit ups is not going to help!!!
As I've said above, the type of exercises you are doing is key to how your abdominals will respond. Be aware of training that is not specific to your goals... why are you doing those ugly 100 sit ups in that bootcamp? What is the purpose? If you are not feeling your abdominals where you need to be, why are you doing them? For example, why do a full sit up when YOU feel more in a crunch? Why are you doing rectus abdominus training (outer abs) if your TA is not functioning? Knowledge is power, if you are not getting the benefits you want, think about what training you are doing!!
At HardCORE Fitness, we are focused on creating STRONG, FUNCTIONING CORES. This means ALL our classes (including BOOTCAMP) and PT sessions are carefully thought through to provide EFFECTIVE CORE TRAINING.
We do not do 100s of sit ups. We do not recommend full planks if we can't maintain our breath or engage our core. We talk about what muscles we are feeling and what we should ideally be feeling.
- PILATES, PILATES, PILATES
Yes I teach pilates, yes I am probably bias. But the thing is.. I've been practicing pilates for nearly 20 years. If I didn't truly believe in the benefits of pilates, if I wasn't living and breathing it, I wouldn't still be doing it! I have seen stomachs totally transformed. I have seen my own stomach go from postpartum "pooch" to totally flat (but more importantly STRONG AGAIN!).
The methods for muscle recruitment and breathing we learn in pilates (and, at HardCORE Fitness, our total body and core class) we can transfer into all of our daily movement and into our other workouts.
- Diet and alcohol intake
Obviously, how our body will respond to our training and adapt will depend on our diet.
When we have an excess of calories our body won't be losing body fat and will likely be storing fat.. where we store that fat is partly determined by our age, hormones and gender (men tend to store more in their bellies).
There is significant research around the effects of alcohol on belly fat specifically - perhaps due to the easy addition of calories.
The KEY POINTS HERE - Check in with your nutrition. Are you having too many calories throughout the day - including alcohol calories!? (yes they count ;p) A standard beer is approx 150 cals, keep that in mind! We need a caloric deficit (burning more than we are taking in) to lose body fat.. There is no getting around that! We can create that deficit by reducing our daily calories, we can create that deficit by burning off calories with exercise, or we can do a combination of both.
- Do you have an ab separation? (diastasis recti)
You may have heard of the ab separation that occurs in pregnancy, but this can also occur in overweight men and women.
In pregnancy the abdominals naturally open to allow for the growing baby. Postpartum this can heal itself, but often we need to do a little more to strengthen the core and help bring the abs back together.
An exaggerated diastasis recti is when the gap is more than 2 finger widths and the connecting tissue in the linea alba (midline of the abs) is soft, creating a weakness in the core.
Possible symptoms of an untreated diastasis include back pain, abdominal discomfort, and a protruding 'pregnant looking' stomach, also known as a "beer belly" or "mummy tummy". We can often see a 'coning' shape or bulge during abdominal work when it is a diastasis - that is a definite cue to get it checked and change up the exercise you are doing!
...Although diastasis recti is usually found in women who have had children, it can be caused, and exacerbated, by incorrect exercise form and lifting techniques in women and men.