It is all too often I have people tell me they want to add more ab exercises (ie sit-ups & crunches) into their workouts to flatten their stomachs. I always tell them that the best way to flatten their stomach is by looking into their diet to focus more on clean eating, adding more moderate to high intensity cardio, continuing with strength training for total body strength (and engage abs during exercises!), ensuring they have enough protein in their diet and are eating a well-balanced / calorie appropriate diet. But, a week later I find us having the same conversation. You can sit-up all you want and strengthen the abdominal muscles, but if you have a layer of fat over those muscles no one will ever know what lies beneath.
I have NEVER shown my stomach in pictures, because I personally feel weird about it and don’t want to come off as a “looks is everything” type of trainer. I am far more concerned about health and being able to physically do things that I love than I am about how I look, BUT I am making an exception. Why? Because the proof is in the pudding, or something like that 😉 This is a photo of me, and YES I am definitely flexing, first thing in the morning on September 13th. Why is this all significant:
- Photo was taken 1 year and 2 months after having my second child
- I have (and had all through pregnancy) Diastasis Recti so did a VERY minimal number of ab exercises while pregnant. And after giving birth to this day, have done only a handful of sit ups / crunches (I have however done planks, hip bridges, leg lowers and exercises focused on Diastasis)
- I currently have a pinched nerve in my neck which partially froze my shoulder (not workout related, believe it or not) and I have not lifted a single weight in almost 3 weeks. I have done seated/weighted and bodyweight lower body exercises
- I HAVE, however, been more carefully focusing on my diet for the past 7 weeks, eating cleaner and more consciously
- Eating more protein and healthy fats, slightly less carbs
- Limiting, but not avoiding, alcohol, sweet treats, and eating out
- Meal prepping and planning out all meals and snacks for the week to set myself up for success
- I did/do NOT use a single meal replacement or take any supplements besides my multi-vitamin. I did/do use a protein powder in my diet (never to replace a meal though!) that can be bought at stores and is vegan and organic.
- I HAVE (prior my injury) been doing moderate to high intensity cardio
- I HAVE (prior to injury) been doing full body strength training and pushing myself to challenge my body
- I HAVE been working hard on my Diastasis Recti and doing more exercises to target the transverse abdominal muscle (aka the deep ab muscle that provides thoracic and pelvic stability), these are not your 6-pack ab muscle and are more for function, so are very important but often overlooked
- I DO attribute my stomach 80% to diet and 20% to exercise and 0% to having children (haha).
But in all seriousness look into your diet first and most importantly make clean, healthy eating a habit so it sticks around for the long-term. Do NOT look for a quick fix; you may get quick results, but you most likely will lose those results just as quickly. Be smart, be patient, be in it for your health and fitness and not solely for your looks (that’s my advice at least).