There's nothing more depressing than seeing that little pot belly poking obstinately over the top of your hip-slung trousers. Whether it's a post-baby belly or a few too many beers, tummy fat can be tough to shift and potentially harmful to your all round health. But panic not. There are tried and tested techniques that can turn a tummy into a triumphant six pack.
You could do 100 crunches an hour every day and you wouldn't necessarily shift that wobbly belly. Why? Because you need to work out with tummy targeted exercises, in conjunction with a calorie controlled diet. From a healthy eating perspective, you could do a lot worse than look at a whole grain diet. According to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a diet that was rich in whole grains blasted extra fat from the waistlines in a trial of obese subjects.
So the key here is to lose weight generally and rely on the fact that 99% of people who do that, will see the weight come off their upper body. In conjunction with that healthy eating plan, you can then tone that tummy with specific and core strengthening exercises. But that doesn't mean a million stomach crunches. You need to strengthen your core, and to do that, you need to do everything from sit ups to the plank and side plank, press ups, lunges, leg lifts and the bridge, to make that tummy taut.
Interval training is the exercise equivalent of the Holy Grail. It is absolutely brilliant for everything and gives your workout real momentum and fat burning potential. No matter what your chosen cardio, whether it's the treadmill, the exercise bike, the rowing machine or the elliptical trainer, there is much more to be gained from brief bursts of intense effort, followed by periods of active recovery, rather than a steady regular pace for a prolonged period.
When you exercise at an accelerated level and then calm it down for a set period with a slower recovery segment in a repeat pattern, your body is more able to efficiently process lactic acid build up. This means you feel less tired and can exercise for longer periods with greater intensity and that is what helps burn fat and calories.
High intensity interval training
Now this is interval training with a difference. HIIT is a programme that you can use in any form of cardio, so again with running, swimming, cycling, stepping or rowing. Just like conventional interval training, the idea here is to raise the intensity of the active period. But the difference here is that this active interval will be shorter than normal intervals, but is even more intense. So rather than one or two minutes of intense activity, you might only have 15 to 30 seconds. But that activity is so brutally intense, you can barely stand afterwards. It doesn't sound pleasant, but it is effective because your body just can't get oxygen to the right places during the intense periods. As a result it has to stabilise itself post-workout, which means the calorie burn continues long after the workout is done.
Lifting weights is another excellent way of burning calories and attacking body fat. The genius of weight training is in the amount of calories you continue to burn after your workout is over. So don't be afraid of the weights area in the gym, make it your friend. The kettle bell is the most popular weight of choice right now and workouts that incorporate lunges, crunches, pulls, twists and rotations, is a real winner when it comes to fat and calorie burning. And remember, you can use any kind of weight.
Variety in terms of exercise is the key to successful fat burning and that's why circuit training is another great way of attacking fat. A workout that includes a combination of cardio and resistance/strength training exercises, performed one after the other on a repeating loop, will make excess fat on your stomach gradually disappear. The different types of exercise will help build muscle and improve aerobic fitness, both of which will burn that pesky fat and flatten that tummy. Typical circuit training exercises can include burpees, squats, press ups, lunges, stepping, sprints, jumping jacks, skipping, weights and push or pull ups.
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