Hi there, I know you can't spot train any muscles but as I've lost weight my body has shown significant improvement, however I can't seem to shift anything from my lower stomach. I rarely drink and have been watching what I eat. I've recently started yoga and am doing an hour a day of cardio but I was wondering if there is any specific exercise to help shift this unwanted weight? Thanks!
The final aspect you need to include with your good nutrition, yoga and daily cardio is strength and core training to enhance lean muscle tissue and elevate your metabolic rate. A total body approach is ideal but make sure you specifically target your middle.
To target the muscles in the stomach and improve muscle tone it is best to work from the inside, outwards. Often this important step can be missed with individuals focusing too much on the more superficial stomach, i.e. six pack, muscles. Also, the stretching of the skin, (elastic properties of which slowly reduces with age unfortunately), can leave an ‘apron’ effect later on.
So, the best way to tackle it is with deep core training in a focused abdominal program done 2-4 times a week but NOT everyday! This is a common misconception that abs should be trained daily but all muscles require rest time to recover and adapt to the training. Often daily abdominals leads to lower back pain long-term due to the lower back muscles having to help out in movements to support the fatigued abdominals (tired from consecutive days training!).
Here’s how to activate the deeper muscles:
- On a DAILY basis you need to be re-training your deepest abdominal muscles (transverse abdominals and pelvic floor) so practice the * drawing-in manoeuvre * as often as you remember. You can do this anywhere (nobody will know!) and it is great to do when you are in a car or at a desk (i.e. any sedentary position), simply start by taking a breath in and as you do, draw your belly button in towards spine. You should feel a tension develop in your midriff (like you have put a belt on!), then as you breathe out, keep your belly button drawn towards your spine and breathe normally. Hold the tension for as long as you remember, although it will not be long to start with. T
he more you practice this manoeuvre the more automatic it will become. By strengthening your TVA and retraining it to automatically activate and stay where it should, you can visibly reduce the size of your waist as well as protect your lumbar spine in the long-term (a common site of pain during and post-pregnancy).
You also need to be retraining the more superficial muscles of the abdominal area which will include the rectus abdominals ('six-pack' muscles). The core exercises you do, need to be performed at a slow, controlled pace, with a full range of motion, with conscious attention given totally to the abdominal area you are trying to strengthen.
1) A well executed basic floor crunch with your knees in a bent position would be an excellent way to start, doing 2-3sets of 15 repetitions. At the top of each crunch movement, (which wouldn't be a big movement and would not involve your lower back leaving the floor) pause and hold for 1 second while trying to consciously squeeze your abdominal muscles. The most important thing about this exercise is not the repetitions but that you REALLY feel the muscles waking up, working and tiring out!
2) An exercise called *the plank* is a fantastic exercise designed for core strength and incorporates shoulder stability and upper body strength. For the starting position, lie on your front and have your elbows underneath your shoulders and feet tucked under your ankles, then lift your body off the floor so only your forearms and knees and shins are on contact with the floor. Concentrate on drawing your tummy in towards your spine against the pull of gravity. If you can do this and hold for 30seconds and prevent your lower back from activating and getting involved then your core strength is strong enough to try a full plank where you progress the hold by lifting the knees up so only your forearms and toes will be in contact with the floor. Aim to hold for as long as possible and do it 2-3 sets.
3) Oblique crunches: same as above but as you lift the body upwards (with hands at ears) take one elbow towards the opposite knee. This will provide a small twist motion. Alternate sides and again look to do a maximum of 20 repetitions.
4) Bicycle crunches: feet off the floor with this one. The elbow comes across the body while the opposite knee comes in to meet in the middle, so you are essentially crunching across the body. Then slowly control on the way down and bring the other elbow and opposing knee into the middle. Aim NOT to let your legs drift out away from the body too much as it can encourage the lower back to get involved and help out.
- You really want to do 1-4 core exercises that could be incorporated into a whole body approach training program, with an emphasis on targeting your core muscles through the entire workout, at the same time as working the other parts of the body. This structure would be ideal and would significantly enhance the strength and tone of your stomach, especially the lower part!
Hope this helps,
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