You’ve been doing your crunches, watching your diet, and increasing your daily step count. You’ve dropped a few pounds and picked up some muscle definition. You’re doing everything right, right? So why aren’t you seeing a change in that stubborn lower abdominal area? As much as you hate to hear it, the hard truth is that it is just not possible to “spot reduce” areas on the body. If it was, cosmetic surgeons would be out of business. But before you give up and go under the knife, listen up! You might not need a tummy tuck, you might just need a new approach to your workout. There are a few exercises that you can incorporate into your exercise routine to target this area and build up the underlying muscles for a more toned appearance and better overall core strength.
Understanding Your Abs
Before you get on the mat, there are a few things you need to understand when it comes to the core. First, those six-pack abs that you see on social media may be aesthetically pleasing, but they are not always realistic. For one thing, they require a very low body fat percentage that isn’t sustainable for most people. Even bodybuilders “reverse diet” when they aren’t competing because the amount of effort required to maintain that look isn’t necessarily healthy. You can achieve definition and, more importantly, a strong core without having every muscle visible to the naked eye.
It is also important to remember that the rectus abdominus is only one part of the core. Yes, it is the most visible, lying just underneath the skin’s surface atop the other core muscles, but that doesn’t mean it should be your only focus. You need to work your entire core, front to back, top to bottom, to prevent injury, protect your back, and improve your posture. Never underestimate the power of good posture to make your tummy look tighter!
The Lowdown on the Lower Section
Technically speaking, there is no such thing as upper and lower abs. There is simply the rectus abdominus muscle with its one large vertical and several smaller horizontal tendons. The lower end is disparagingly referred to by some women as FUPA, or fatty upper pubic area. This part of the rectus abdominus is notoriously harder to work than the upper portion. That’s because a basic sit-up involves moving from the top and bending the torso to bring the ribs closer to the pelvic area. It doesn’t require anything of the lower abdominal area.
If you want to target the lower portion, you have to reverse the movement and lead from the bottom, bringing the pelvic area toward the ribs. This requires a lot of focus on form and breath, as the lower back must remain flat and the rib cage tight. Exhaling through each exertion can help you stay connected to the work and keep your lower back from arching. Try the following exercises designed to initiate movement from the lower portion of the abs and strengthen the core.
Begin by lying flat on your back with your hands placed underneath your glutes. Press your lower back into the ground and lift your right leg to just above hip height while your left leg hovers a few inches off the ground. Hold for two seconds and switch. For more intensity, raise your head and neck off the ground.
Lie flat on your back with your knees over your hips and legs bent at a 90-degree angle. Keeping your back on the ground, exhale and draw your knees in towards your chest, raising your hips off the floor. Avoid using momentum or “swinging” the legs up. Use the lower abs to lift. When you feel your lower back start to come off the mat, that’s your stopping point. Inhale and lower hips, returning to the starting position.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle over your hips and your arms extended above your shoulders. Inhale as you extend and lower your right arm over your head and your left leg towards the floor, keeping your back flat. Exhale and bring them back to the starting point. Repeat on the opposite side.
Adding these moves to your workout routine will ABsolutley target your lower abs, but it takes more than simply core exercises to reduce belly fat. You can do reverse crunches all day long, but if you aren’t moving your body daily or you’re eating a diet high in fats, sugars, and processed foods, you are defeating the purpose. A healthy lifestyle is all-encompassing and includes cardio, strength training, a diet rich in whole foods, lots of water, and plenty of rest. It also includes a healthy attitude, so manage your expectations. Let go of the idea that you have to have photo-worthy abs and embrace the idea of being the healthiest, strongest version of yourself inside and out.
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