How To Get A Flat Tummy: Stomach Exercises that Work!

Now that baby is born, you are probably wondering why your stomach is still so huge and mushy! Your belly will certainly get flatter over the next few months, but in order to get rid of the 'doughy look,' you will need to do some abdomial exercises. Searching for some quick stomach exercises to help flatten your belly? Forget sit ups - focus on your transverse abdominals!

Great Stomach, No Crunches
One of the most overlooked group of abdominal muscles, the transverse muscles are the deepest lying abdominal muscles that basically act as a girdle to your entire middle section. These muscles lie horizontally and help to keep your organs in place, while putting pressure onto your abdomen. They are also the muscles you need to target if you want a flatter stomach.

They Do It All
The transverse abdominals are connected to your back muscles as well as your rectus abdominals. The rectus abdominus are your vertical abdominal muscles and are the muscles most commonly targeted when you do stomach exercises. Unfortunately, traditional stomach exercises like crunches tend to by-pass the transverse abs so no matter how many sit-ups you do, your transverse muscles will barely feel the effects.

Any fitness program that targets your core, like Pilates, will include stomach exercises that target the transverse abdominals. However, you often work these muscles without realizing it. Whenever you hold your stomach in, you are working the transverse abs. For instance, the proper position for lunges requires you to keep your back straight and how do you do that? By tightening your abdominals, or more specifically your transverse abdominals, of course.

Why They are Important to Pregnant and Post-Partum Women
Having taut transverse abdominal muscles when you are pregnant has many benefits.

  • Since they are attached to your back muscles, strengthening your transverse abs can help reduce your back pain.
  • Labor may be easier since you learn how to better control your abs and therefore may not need to push as much.
  • The rectus abdominus often tend to split during pregnancy in order to accommodate your growing baby (this is known as diastasis). Having tight transverse abs during pregnancy can get your rectus muscles back into place faster and therefore give you a flatter stomach sooner after pregnancy.
Attending prenatal Pilates classes or taking a specialty prenatal fitness class designed to effectively work the transverse abs can help you stay fit and look great both during and after your pregnancy.

During the postpartum period, when you start exercising again, be sure to include some abdominal exercises that target the transverse abs. Not only will you quickly achieve a flatter stomach, but you should also notice an improvement in your posture and fewer backaches.

Transverse Exercises
Here are some exercises that target those hard to get to transverse muscles. If you are pregnant, consult with your health care provider before doing any of these exercises.

The No-Crunch Crunch

  • To do this exercise, start by lying on the floor with your knees bent and feet firmly on the floor.
  • Lightly place your hands just below and to the sides of your belly button. Firmly press two fingers from each hand into your lower abdomen.
  • Gently begin to draw your lower abdomen down towards the floor (picture a string pulling your navel towards the floor) but do not move your pelvis, raise your chest or hold your breath.
  • Stop drawing in your stomach as soon as you feel your muscles get tight. The muscles underneath your fingers should feel taut but the movement does not require a lot of effort. If you move too far, you will in fact stop working your transverse abs and begin to work your oblique muscles (your side abdominal muscles) instead.
  • Hold this position for 10 to 15 seconds, breathing normally the entire time.
  • Do ten repetitions.

    Scissor Kicks

  • To do this abdominal exercise, start by lying on the floor. Place your hands under your buttocks and keep your back pressed against the floor.
  • Raise one leg about 10 inches off the ground and slowly lower it back down. As you lower the one leg, raise the other.
  • Do three sets of ten repetitions.

    Pelvic Tilts

  • Lying on the floor with your back pressed against the floor, bend your knees keeping your feet on the ground.
  • Slowly lift your pelvis up and hold briefly before lowering slowly back down to the ground. Your upper body should remain on the floor throughout the movement.
  • Do three sets of 15 repetitions.

    Lifted-leg Push-up
    If you’re feeling very strong in your upper body, or if you just feel like multi-tasking during your workout, then give this challenging exercise a whirl.

  • Get into push-up position but keep your feet hip-width apart.
  • Raise one leg as high as you can and then do a regular push-up. Switch legs and repeat.
  • This is a pretty tough one, especially if you don’t have much upper-body strength, so just do as many as you can.
  • For an easier variation of this exercise, try this:

  • Get down on all fours with your hands positioned about shoulder-width apart, elbows slightly bent. Your knees should be together and positioned underneath your hips. To make the exercise more challenging, place your knees slightly behind you. Have your toes curled on the floor. Your heels should not be touching the floor.
  • Tighten your abs by drawing your navel in towards your spine. In a smooth, controlled motion, raise your knees off the ground. Your upper body should not move.
  • Hold for one breath and then slowly lower down.
  • Aim for three sets of ten.

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