Guest blog from REPs Member Chloe Reynolds
One of the questions I get asked most by my clients is “how do I get rid of belly fat” or “how do I get a six pack”. To many people, the dream of a toned tum is only a few hundred crunches away – however we know as fitness people that this just isn’t realistic, or fun. Otherwise we’d all have rippling eight packs right? Wrong. Many traditional ab exercises such as sit ups, bicycles, and ab curl machines are a sure way to a bad back & a rounded shoulder posture – attractive!
To help us understand why this doesn’t work let’s look at the reasons we store fat around the stomach. Belly fat is a result of too much processed food in the daily diet, inactivity & our body’s hormonal response. For example, high levels of the hormone cortisol (which is elevated by stress, overtraining and lack of sleep) affects our response to insulin and encourages fat storage around the middle.
So how do we chisel away those abs safely & efficiently? It all begins in the kitchen. First of all, if we look at the abdominal muscle group we will see that each of us has abs, and that it is the natural shape of the muscle which gives the appearance of a ‘six pack’, however in order to make these muscles prominent we must melt away the overlying subcanteous fat layer, & thicken the muscle.
In order to do this we need to get our clients to clean up their diet & get plenty of greens in (cruciferous veggies are an excellent fat burner). Reduce or eliminate processed foods, grains, soy & wheat (it is thought 6-7% of the population are intolerant to gluten), as these can cause inflammation of the stomach & promote fat storage. Also drinking plenty of water to flush out any nasty toxins – another cause of fat storage. It’s amazing how much of an effect what we eat alone has on the appearance our stomach. Processed foods can cause bloating, and too much salt in the diet can cause water retention which will affect the appearance of the midsection.
Now on to those exercises. Exercising at a high intensity with compound movements, and bouts of high intensity cardio are a quick way to melt away excess fat. Be sure to encourage adequate rest & good quality sleep in order to reduce cortisol levels.
Ideal core exercises promote strength through the mid section, improve our day to day functional movement and improve posture.
Avoid exercises which cause excessive flexion of the spine & instead opt for exercises which counter any bad posture & hit all planes of motion. Improving posture alone can make you look taller and give the appearance of a flatter stomach. The transverse abdominus muscles act as the body’s natural corset to pull us into good alignment (making us look slimmer) & also help us to avoid muscle imbalance & injury. Great exercises to improve posture are cobras, wall angels & bent over rows.
Ideal ab exercises include woodchops, turkish get ups, hanging leg raises, reverse curls, Kettlebell windmills, medicine ball throws, leg lowers, or Jackknives. These are just a few examples of fantastic exercises you can get clients to perform safely, whilst fine tuning the abdominals. The list of exercises is extensive, and with different progressions of each you can keep challenging your clients, and have fun with it.
Once you get your clients to clean up their diet and perform some of these exercises they will soon start to see a difference. Perhaps get them to do you a food diary to monitor progress – often people don’t realise what they eat throughout the week until they see it written down on paper.
Preparing food in advance is also a key way for your clients to stay on track with healthy eating, cooking extra of a healthy dinner to take for lunch saves both time & money, and stops clients from grabbing something convenient yet unhealthy which will contravene their goals.
A flat stomach or a six pack is one of the most sought after aesthetic results that clients of today seek – time to ditch the crunches and clean up the diet!