A flatter middle is one of the most desired outcomes from starting a weight loss quest. Our middle is something of a focal point on our bodies and can tell us (and others!) a lot about whether we are fit and healthy – fat seems to store in the area annoyingly easily.
It is true to say that the absolute number one thing which you must do in order to improve the look of your middle is get your nutrition right.
This said, using the muscles your stomach is also important, both for looks and for function of your body.
The first thing to note is that many people don’t know how to work their middle correctly, or what it should feel like.
The muscles in your stomach are used to stabilise your body, to allow your spine to ‘fold’ and your lumbar area to rotate on top of your pelvis.
In order to exercise your stomach correctly and effectively, it’s important to understand how to engage it. The easiest way to understand and feel this is to hold your hands together in front of your body and to resist all movement while a willing assistant tries to push your hands in different directions.
Then, you can start using exercises to improve your connection to your middle, and your strength across all its functions.
Great exercises to start with are simple ones like lying face-up on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat, then engage your middle and notice how it makes your back engage with the floor more. Once you can do this on demand without having to think too hard, you can try lifting a foot and straightening your leg without losing the connection.
You can try the yoga Cat/Cow exercise too, making a conscious effort to engage your stomach muscles to flex your spine.
Rotation, and anti-rotation, exercises are important to include too. A rotation exercise is going to involve rotating your torso on top of your hips (your hips shouldn’t move at all), using a light resistance band tied to a fixed point to your side. An anti rotation exercise would have the resistance band tied to a fixed point to your side again while your arms move forwards and backwards, or up and down, and resist the sideways pull of the band.
Of course there are a million progressions of these exercises and others too. These are the very basics and an important place to start.
First, make sure you understand what your stomach is meant to do and how to engage the muscles correctly, then gradually progress from simple to complex exercises and notice how your body starts to move better, and how the look of your middle changes.