The Best Exercises to Slim the Stomach

A slim stomach and strong core not only look good–they also improve your health. According to “FITNESS Magazine,” abdominal fat increases your risk of cancer and heart disease and also ups insulin, which causes your body to store even more calories as fat. A strong core stabilizes your upper body, protecting your spine from injury. So, although building a fit body with a slim waist is difficult, it’s worth the effort.

Cardio

The first fact you need to face is that performing abdominal exercises won’t spot reduce fat in your stomach. Arnold Schwarzenegger busts this long-held myth in “The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding.” When your body needs extra calories, it pulls them from fat stores all over your body, though you’ll have a tendency to lose weight first where you put it on last.

To reduce your stomach, you have to burn more calories than you eat, and that usually means cardiovascular exercise. Some exercises are better at burning fat than others, but the main factor in your choice of exercise should be how much you enjoy it. Running burns a lot of calories, but if you hate it and are constantly finding excuses to skip out on it, it’s not going to help you. Maybe you prefer swimming, tennis or martial arts. It doesn’t matter which burns the most calories; find an activity that you enjoy and that you’ll do consistently, and you’ll be surprised at how quickly your stomach will vanish.

Plate Twists

Performing abdominal exercises isn’t going to burn fat faster in your stomach, but it will strengthen the muscles that hold in your stomach. Your abdominal muscles are like a natural girdle. When you strengthen them, it’s like pulling the laces tighter.

Plate twists strengthen the entire abdominal region, front and sides. To perform a plate twist, sit on an exercise mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Hold a weight plate or medicine ball out from your chest, and lean back. Slowly twist from side to side. A twist to each side equals one rep. Perform sets of 10 to 20 reps.

To increase the difficult of plate twists, hold a heavier weight, or do what the “Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding” suggests and lift your feet from the ground. Balancing on your butt will develop every stabilizer muscle in your core.

Side Jackknife

Many people focus on the front abdominal muscle–the rectus abdominis–but ignore the sides. This is a mistake if you want to shrink your stomach, because the oblique abdominal muscles can cinch your waist in, giving you a more slender appearance. They’re also essential for protecting your spine.

To perform side jackknifes, lie on your right side on an exercise mat. Stack your feet on top of each other. Extend your right arm out in front of you palm-down for balance. Place the fingertips of your left hand behind your left ear. Lift your left leg, and at the same time crunch your body up with your left oblique, reaching for your leg with your elbow. Contract your oblique as hard as you can. Perform sets of 10 reps each, switching sides between sets.

Heel Touchers

Heel touchers are a very effective burnout exercise with which to finish your workout. The extended contraction of the rectus abdominis works deep into the muscle, especially when you’ve pre-exhausted it with other abdominal exercises.

To perform heel touchers, lie on your back on an exercise mat with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Place your hands palm-down at your sides. Crunch your shoulders off the mat, and slowly lean to the left and touch your left heel with your fingertips. Without settling your shoulders back down, lean to the right and touch your right heel with your right fingertips. Your heels should be placed so that you can reach them, but you have to crunch pretty hard to do it. A touch to each side is one rep. As your final exercise, perform as many reps as you can in a slow and controlled manner. Try to increase that number every week.

About this Author

Jeffrey Rice became an ACE-accredited personal trainer in 2007, and began writing about fitness to support his business. Soon, however, he found himself writing more than training, and has since written health, fitness and supplement articles for numerous websites. He holds a M.F.A. in creative writing from Cleveland State University.