Do you faithfully do abdominal crunches every day – but still have a lower abdominal region that’s lose and flabby? Firming and toning the lower abdominals is one of the most challenging aspects of getting into shape. Why? Because most men and post-menopausal women store lots of fat there, and the problem becomes more pronounced with age. Combine that with a few pregnancies and the result is flabby lower abs. Are there ways to tone the lower abdominal muscles and eliminate that annoying “pooch”?
How to Tame Flabby Lower Abs: Is It a Lack of Firmness or Fat?
Some well-meaning fitness buffs assume that abdominal exercises are all that’s needed to firm up the lower abdominal region. Chances are the problem stems from a combination of poor muscle strength and too much abdominal fat. Focused abdominal exercises will only solve part of the problem.
Even if you firm up your lower abdominal region, you won’t have a six-pack if it’s covered by a layer of body fat. If you have a visible “pooch” you can grab with your hands, there’s a layer of body fat that’s making any abdominal musculature you have invisible.
Firm the Lower Abdominal Region: Attack It From Two Angles
The answer? If you have too much abdominal fat, increase the intensity of your aerobic exercise. Higher intensity workouts activate fat-burning hormones like epinephrine and growth hormone better than low or moderate-intensity exercise. Instead of doing 45 minutes of moderately intense exercise every other day, cut your aerobic workouts back to twenty or thirty minutes – and do interval training instead.
To do interval training, work out at the highest intensity you can for one minute and rest for two minutes, alternating back and forth. During high intensity intervals, you should be working so hard that you’re unable to talk or even string together a complete sentence. This burns significantly more calories than moderate-intensity exercise. The shorter time interval reduces production of cortisol, the “stress hormone” that causes fat storage. For maximal results, do high-intensity interval training every other day. Talk to your doctor before doing high-intensity exercise.
Tone Lower Abdominals Using Focused Exercises
It’s difficult to specifically target the lower abdominal region with exercises. Most people think that leg lifts tone the lower abdominals. In reality they work the hips more than the lower abdominal region. Two of the best exercises for toning lower abdominals are the hanging leg raise and reverse curls – using good form, of course.
Follow up by doing plank exercises to firm and tone the entire core region. Do three 15 rep sets of each exercise every other day for best results. Gradually increase the number of reps as you become stronger. Your lower abdominal region should burn by the last repetition. If not, you need to do a few more.
Toning Lower Abdominals: The Bottom Line?
Combine exercises with a good nutrition plan that limits processed foods and high-glycemic carbs and you should see results in six to eight weeks. Some women with flabby lower abs who have been pregnant have a condition called diastasis recti where the abdominal muscle separates. This causes a flabby, distended tummy that doesn’t respond to diet or exercise. If this applies to you, see your doctor.
Fitness Prescription. February 2004. page 153.