Everywhere you look, there are articles with tips for a toned stomach, but they just seem so… vague. Follow a healthy diet… what does that mean, exactly? And you know you have to exercise, but which exercises should you do, how often, and why? All the other articles I’ve read don’t answer these pressing questions… until now. I’ve chatted with my personal trainer and demanded specifics from him… and here’s what I’ve found out. Here are 18 tips for a toned stomach. Notice that they’re very specific, and that they fall into two categories, diet and exercise, starting with exercise. Let’s go!
1. BUST THE MYTH
Let me be very clear: there is no one magical food, or one magical exercise, that’s going to magically tone your stomach. While we’re busting myths, there’s also no way to single out your abs and only tone them… you have to tone all over to get toned abs… but that’s not a bad thing, is it? Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on to some diet tips for a toned stomach.
2. MAKE THE GRAIN SWAP
Aside from being bland and boring, white bread is terribly unhealthy and certainly won’t help you get a toned stomach. It’s literally bleached of its nutrients, taking the fiber and the flavor with them. Make the swap to wholesome, hearty whole grains, which taste better, and because they’re loaded with fiber, will help you feel fuller, longer.
3. MAKE THE DAIRY SWAP
Now that you’ve made the grains swap, it’s time to make the dairy swap. Trade in your calcium-rich whole-fat dairy for dairy products made with reduced-fat milk. The flavor is just as rich (try a 2%-milk Greek yoghurt if you don’t believe me) and they’re a lot healthier for you.
4. SKIP THE SODA
Simply put, soda is a sad, sorry mistake, albeit a tasty one. If you drink the regular kind, you’re consuming loads of empty calories, most of them from high fructose corn syrup, which has an unpleasant tendency to end up around your middle. If you drink the diet kind, you’re not going to fare much better: it’s loaded with nasty, potentially cancer-causing artificial sweeteners, and a recent study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio found that people who drink diet soda are likely to gain weight, not lose it… up to 43% more weight, in fact. So it’d best if you skip the soda altogether, or at least drastically limit your intake.
5. EAT SMALLER MEALS, MORE OFTEN
Want to kick your metabolism into high gear, and keep it there? Try eating five small meals a day, rather than three large ones. Aim for a small, nutritious breakfast, a light mod-morning snack, a healthy lunch, a mid-afternoon snack, and a dinner with lean protein and fresh veggies. These small meals will keep your metabolism going all day, rather than stopping it and starting it, which will help you keep fit and toned.
6. TRY FOR FIVE
If you want a toned stomach, you need the right fuel to keep you going to get it that way! According to the USDA, at least some of that fuel ought to be from five servings of fresh fruits and veggies. They provide loads of fiber and antioxidants, and they also give you a slow-burning energy. Can sweets or chips do that? Nope. So one of the best ways to tone your stomach is actually to feed it properly… fantastic! Now let’s move on to some exercise tips for a toned stomach, shall we?
7. CRUNCH TIME
Ah, of course. My very first exercise tip for toning your stomach has to be crunches, doesn’t it? For good reason, as much as we all loathe them — they work. Don’t bore yourself with set after set of plain old crunches, though. Mix it up. Use a decline bench to do oblique twist crunches and standard, straightforward crunches. Aim for 2 sets of 15 each day, of each kind. Gradually increase the number of crunches and sets. Remember to use your abs, not your neck or arms, to complete the crunch motion.
While you’re on the decline bench, add 2 sets of 15 sit-backs to your routine. As the name implies, they’re a bit different from sit-ups, in that you start in the sitting (or crunched) position, then slowly lower yourself back, about half-way, then sit back up again. It sounds easy, but it’s not.
9. REVERSE FLY
There’s a piece of equipment at the gym, a stand, that you’ll use to do your sets of reverse flys. The trick is to keep a good form. When you fly back up, don’t arch your back; simply come up as straight as possible, then bend at the waist to start the next rep. Twist to one side as you come up, and that’s a side fly, which will also tone your obliques.
10. HAVE A BALL!
Quite literally, one of the best tips for a toned stomach involves strengthening your core, and to do that, you’ll do standard exercises (like crunches) while struggling to maintain your balance… by using a bosu or other exercise ball.
11. LEG LIFTS
There are two types of leg lifts that are stellar tips for a toned stomach, and likely more, though these two are my favorites. For the first, sit sideways on a bench with your feet flat on the floor, your arms behind you for support (maybe grasp the side of the bench), and your back straight. Keeping your back straight, bend your knees and use your abs to bring your legs up. Slowly draw them back down, but don’t let them touch the floor before you bring them up again. Do these leg lifts for 2 sets of 15. The second leg lifts you do flat on your back, with your arms at your sides. Keeping your legs straight, bring your heels off the floor about six to eight inches, and leave them there for as long as you can (aim for 30 to 45 seconds at first). Both of these leg lifts help work your lower abs. Wow, do they hurt at first… but you can do it!
12. PUSH-UPS AND PLANKS
Together, these two exercises work wonder for a toned stomach. Again, like many of these other exercises, form is key. Keep the line from your head to your heels as straight as possible, without poking your butt in the air or sagging in the middle. Try for 2 sets of 15 push-ups, and a good 30 to 45 second plank, if you can.
13. RUN… OR JOG… OR WALK!
Have you noticed a trend among these exercise tips for a toned stomach? They all have one big thing in common: they all force you to get up and move around! That’s why running, or jogging or even just brisk walking, is another marvelous way to tone your tummy! It not only keeps your tummy (and other body parts) toned, it also keeps your heart fit, and it’s even good for your bones.
14. YOGA WORKS, TOO
After a long, hard workout, you might be tempted to lie down on the couch, but don’t do it! Instead, pop in a yoga video or head to yoga class to stretch out your warmed-up muscles. This is good for your entire body, tip to toe, and it helps relieve stress, too.
15. SIT UP STRAIGHT!
I feel bad for not believing my mother all those years… but she was right! Keeping your ab muscles tight helps improve your posture, which in turn, strengthens your core, which keeps your abs toned… what a wonderfully effective circle effect! Try it now. Tighten your tummy muscles, and see how much straighter you’re sitting?
16. ADD WEIGHTS
Once you’ve been doing any of these exercises, it’s time to add some weight to them. Well, except for the sitting up straight bit. Anyway, use small hand weights, starting with 2 pounds, and work your way up to 8 or 10 pound weights. Now your arms will be toned, along with your stomach… but this helps tone your stomach, too.
17. AMP IT UP!
Once you’re comfortable with the reps and the weights, it’s time to amp up your toned-tummy workout a little more. Add a few more reps, or one whole new set, or add a new exercise to the routine. Or, go for broke and try a new DVD or exercise class!
18. HIRE A PRO
If all else fails, and you’re just not getting the results you want, here’s one last tip for a toned stomach, one that’s guaranteed to work: hire a personal trainer. Think about it: his or her reason for being would be to whip you into the shape you want to be in, and they have the knowledge and experience to get you there. If you can afford it, this may be the way to go, before you start on your own.
Wow, this is a long, varied list of tips for a toned stomach, so there’s bound to be something new and interesting here that you haven’t seen or considered before, maybe just the thing to get you back into your favorite bikini! Which of these tips do you like best, and which are you dreading? Or is there another tip for a toned stomach you’d like to share? Please do!