Everybody wants Gwen Stefani’s abs, right? But getting them doesn’t happen overnight; it will take about 28 days. Also, it’s hard work.
Crunches are not the way to go as they put too much pressure on your neck and lower back. That's why they are one of the exercises doctors will never do. You are in a crunched position all day while you are sitting at your desk, staring at the computer or talking on the phone. Back pain can occur from too much flexion in the spine and from the many repetitions.
Personal trainers always recommend planks and burpees, but, let’s face it, they are too hard. There has got to be another, preferably, easier way, right? Fortunately, yes.
“You can do all the exercises in the world, but if you’re not burning fat, you won’t get those flat abs,” Brown says. If you don’t burn the calories you consume, they will be stored as fat. Don’t forget that the abdominals include many interconnected muscles that run up the back and stretch down to the glutes (strengthen those muscles) and the thighs.
Brown recommends the Hollow Body Hold as one of the best alternatives to planks and burpees. It is similar to the boat pose in yoga, except the lower back is connected to the floor. Your back is on the mat, legs are lifted, head and shoulders are off the floor, and you’re looking at your feet. “This is very effective and much safer than crunches,” Brown adds. You burn calories much faster.
This is a classic Pilates exercise that is often used to warm up (see what stretches you should never do before a workout). The Hundred is also similar to the yoga boat pose but it's a bit easier, Brown says. Lie on your back with your knees bent and up in the air. Your arms should be reaching up. As you move them back down to the floor, lift your head and roll up so your shoulder blades are just off the mat. Count to 10 and do 10 more reps (reaching 100 beats).
The dead bug exercise is for beginners, Brown says. It’s used a lot in physical therapy and by people who have a weak core, she adds. You should be lying on your back; your hands should be reaching up or you can leave them by your side. Bring your knees up forming a 90-degree angle. Start the exercise by extending one leg – straighten the knee and hip. Maintain this position for a few seconds, switch legs and repeat.
This is the only machine Brown recommends for ab exercises. (See what exercises personal trainers won't do) “It’s harder than crunches and safer for your back when done properly,” she adds. It’s important to not swing back and forth. Stabilize your spine as you pull your knees towards the chest. Press your back against the pad and use your abs to raise your legs and knees.
It may not look like much but this exercise will really work out your core. Start by getting on all fours. Your back should always be straight. Reach out with one hand and extend the opposite leg. Engage your abs to maintain balance. Hold for a few seconds and switch. Repeat each side about 15 times.
The corkscrew is a typical Pilates move. It works like a charm by strengthening the obliques, core and legs. Start by lying on your back. Pull your knees towards the chest. Reach them up to the ceiling and squeeze your glutes. Move them to the right as you lift your hips up off the floor. Go back and then move the legs to the left and up. Your shoulder should be grounded. Repeat 10-15 times.
The most important thing in trying to get a 6-pack is to remember that you cannot spot reduce, Brown says. “But that doesn’t mean you cannot burn off belly fat.” This is where core exercises and yoga come in. Losing belly fat involves losing fat in general, and yoga involving aerobic activity will do the trick. At the very least yoga helps with fixing your posture, which gives the illusion of a flatter belly.
“There is a famous saying that ‘muscles are made in the gym and flat abs are made in the kitchen,'” Brown says. “Sugar and processed foods are usually the biggest culprits in American diet,” she adds. Stay away from: Trans fats; foods that are loaded with carbs such as bagels, pizza, pasta and white rice; high-lactose dairy products; high sugary drinks such as soda (even diet soda is killing you) and fruit juices.
Studies link alcohol consumption to bigger waists because when you drink booze, the liver burns alcohol instead of fat, according to WebMD. It also has a lot of sugar. It’s very easy to get too many empty calories, especially from beer. But the body still has to burn them, otherwise it’ll store them as fat. And the belly is usually the first place they stick.