A frequent question that has been coming up is how does one lose inches around the midsection and develop strong stomach muscles. Well there’s a couple of things I would like to address as I don’t recommend a one size fits all approach when working with individuals. I’m going to share with you techniques I use with clients as a check list for the top priorities.
1. Assessing Core Function
The core isn’t just one set of muscles but rather a combination of muscles that are designed to stabilize and move the body in different planes of motion. What I find in my practice is many people are disconnected to their core and they show signs of muscle imbalances.
A common issue among mothers is a condition known as diastasis recti which is the partial or complete separation of the rectus abdominis, or “six-pack” muscles, which meet at the mid-line of your stomach due to pregnancy.
This is a condition that must be corrected before participating in any advanced exercise program as injury is likely to occur.
Assessing the TVA muscle (a deep core stabilizer) will help you determine whether you need to work on corrective exercises.
Does your core function properly? Here’s a test you can try at home.
Place one hand over your stomach. Take a deep inhale through your nose. Pay attention to if the hand on your stomach pushes out as you breathe in and falls in towards the spine as you breathe out. Inability to do so could be a sign you have trouble activating your TVA. Don’t worry in a bit I’m going to give you a great TVA exercise strengthener.
2. Clean Up Your Diet
You are never going to sit up your way to a leaner and stronger midsection. In fact floor sit ups are one of my least favorite exercises (more on that later). The biggest impact you can make is choosing the right foods for you. Remember, you can’t spot reduce body fat, it just doesn’t work that way. The body decides where to reduce fat as long as you are staying active and eating optimally for your body. For some people the midsection is the last place they lose body fat. With that being said there are a couple of things we can work on with our diet that can reduce your susceptibility to bloating and digestive issues that cause extended bellies.
Here is my check list
- Cut out all inflammatory foods (Gluten, dairy, refined sugar, and table salt)
- Avoid processed foods
- Eat organic whole foods
- Drink half your weight in ounces of water daily
If diet is something you have a challenge with then I encourage make this a focus point and you will be amazed by the difference of how your body feels.
3. Get the Right Movement
As mentioned earlier the core is comprised of many muscle groups so train in various planes of motion. We tend to focus too much on the upper abdominal muscles which are all ready over active in the majority of the population compared to the weaker lower abdominal muscles. Doing sit ups and crunches on the ground often drives the imbalance further. Learning to do crunches on a stability ball however allows you to practice with more range of motion and this can be balanced with strengthening the lower abdominal as well. Great exercises to learn include reverse crunches, planks (all variations), side bends, wood chops (all variations), heavy squats, heavy dead lifts, lunges with weight, bear crawls, dead bugs and horse stance exercises.
If you are confident that the first thing you need to do is strengthen your deep core stabilizer muscles, one exercise you can do that are amazing are Tummy Vacuums.
How to do a tummy vacuum
Laying on your back, you want to breathe through your nose and into your stomach allowing it to expand out with the inhale, hold for one second before exhaling through pursed lips (like blowing into a trumpet), as you exhale feel the stomach fall towards the spine. At the end of the exhale HOLD FOR 10 SECONDS. Breathe in and repeat this process for 6-10 reps. You can do this exercise daily and you will see great improvement in your ability to activate the TVA muscle.
Progressions: Once you master this movement laying on your back, you can progress to on your hands and knees, and then doing the exercise in the standing position.
The final note I want to leave you with is that when you make the decision to work on your core, do so with the end goal of building strength. When you focus on strength rather than losing weight you are more inclined to avoid silly diets and workout routines that make you cut calories excessively and leave you in pain. At the same time you’ll be able to see noticeable differences strengthen and tighten up your midsection.
I hope you found this information useful. If you know anyone who is looking to build a strong core, be a friend and forward this email to them.
P.S. I help men and women develop strong core muscles through well implemented nutrition and exercise programs. I even do individual core assessments to identify and correct core imbalances. For more information on my assessment process, check out my coaching programs.
Best in health
– Coach Ray