Just because you can’t see it, it doesn’t mean the six-pack isn’t there. It’s just covered with a layer of fat. This is the fat that you need to reduce in order to make your abs visible.
Getting toned abs is a common fitness goal that is achievable with workout and balanced diet.
1.Workouts That Tone the Abs
The best workouts that reduce belly fat and strengthen the abs are:
Planking for 30 – 60 seconds is a great way to strengthen the core.
Get down into a push-up position, with your arms parallel to the body and at about shoulder-width distance. Make sure your whole body is in a straight line and your feet are hip-width apart.
If you’re a beginner, start with two 15-second periods followed with a short rest in between. Increase gradually, until you’re able to do two 1-minute periods.
- Side Planks
Side planks, as well as other plank variations, are great for working the obliques, as well as the core.
Lie on the side and prop your body up on one hand or elbow. Keep a straight form and make sure your hips are up. Hold for 20 - 60 seconds.
Besides toning your abs, squats are also great for working the hamstrings, quads, hips, buttocks, and back muscles. A similar effect is achieved with lunges.
Stand tall, with your back straight and your feet hip-width apart. Push your buttocks out and bend your knees like you’re sitting on a chair. Pause for a moment then return to starting position.
- Leg Lifts
This workout hits the deep muscle that wraps around the front — the transverse abdominis.
Lie on your back and place your arms behind your head. Lift your legs up to the ceiling, making sure they’re completely straight. Slowly lower your legs back down until they’re just above the ground. Hold for a second, then raise them back up. Repeat 12 – 20 times.
Lie flat on the ground face up and cross your arms across your chest. Bend your knees and plant your feet on the ground. Tighten your core and lift your upper back and shoulders off of the ground. Pause briefly, then lower yourself back down. Repeat for 10 – 20 times.
If this workout feels too easy, use 5lb or 10lb weights. However, avoid the weights if you’re a beginner as extra weight might cause spine injury. Another way to make the workout slightly more difficult is to by placing your hands at your ears. Just ensure you don’t pull at your head as you lift the shoulders.
- Bicycle Crunches
Lie on the floor and put your hands behind your head. Bring your knees in towards your chest and lift your shoulders off of the floor, making sure not to pull on your head. Straighten your left leg out until it almost touches the floor and turn your torso to the right to bring the left elbow towards the right knee. Repeat on the other side. Do a total of 20 reps (10 on each side).
- Standing Crunches
Assume a squat position with your hands behind your head, making sure your abs are pulled in throughout the exercise. Squat down, then bring the right knee to your left elbow as you rise. The elbow should be to the side of your head and you should twist slightly to get your elbow nearer to the knee. Repeat 12-20 times.
Tips to Increase the Effectiveness of the Ab Workouts
- Warm Up
Warming up for about five minutes before beginning the workout is a great way to loosen your lower back and prevent injury. Light marching, jogging, a short walk, low-impact aerobics, or jumping rope should do the trick.
- Start Small & Go Slow
No matter how bad you want to get killer abs, don’t start with an advanced ab workout plan. Start small to give your body time to adjust. Once your core strengthens and you master proper form, you’ll be able to do more difficult movements. You should also try performing the workouts slowly in order to really feel the burn.
- Change the Workout Routine
Make sure to switch up your ab workout routine every four to six weeks by changing exercises, trying variations, or adding extra weight. There is a great number of variations of crunches, squats, and planks that will help tone your abs. For instance, if your routine consists of planks, leg lifts, crunches, and squats, on week 4 switch to bicycle crunches, side planks, and add extra weight for the squats.
- Optimal Frequency
Perform 15 to 30 minutes of ab workouts 2 to 3 times a week. Rest for one day in between the ab workouts.
- Burn Off Fat
You can’t have toned abs if you don’t burn the excess fat that is hiding them. This is best done with half an hour cardio exercises 3 to 5 times per week.
Don’t hold your breath while working out. The core muscles need oxygen to work at their full capacity. As a rule of thumb, you should inhale on the easiest part of the exercise and exhale when you need to exert the most force.
- Train Your Lower Back
Most of us focus on working the abs and totally forget about the lower back. This imbalance can result in lower back pain or even injury. For every workout that targets only the abdominal muscles (this excludes planks, as well as all workouts that involve standing and twisting), make sure to perform a workout that targets the muscles in the lower back such as supermans or knee-to-chest stretches.
2.Diet That Tones the Abs
The first step to making your six pack visible is to balance out your diet. If you want to see your abs, you’ll have to reduce the overall body fat. Get rid of sweets, added sugar and salt, alcohol, and soda.
Opt for a low-carb diet. Carbs are a micronutrient that is known to cause weight gain. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that healthy adults should get 50%-65% of their calories from carbs and the rest from protein and fat. Any percentage that falls below this range is considered low-carb.
The benefits of consuming fewer carbs include:
- Increased feeling of fullness and cravings
- Constant energy throughout the day
- As the body doesn’t have any carbs to use as fuel, it turns to fat, which causes you to burn more calories.
There is a number of low-carb diets you can choose from, such as the paleo diet, the Atkins diet, the no white diet, the Tim Ferris Slow Carb Diet, etc.
Low-carb foods include:
- lean meats (chicken breast, turkey, sirloin)
- some fruits (strawberries, blueberries, apples)
- leafy green vegetables
- broccoli and cauliflower
- seeds and nuts (including nut butter)
- oils (rapeseed oil, olive oil, coconut oil)
- unsweetened dairy products (plain Greek yogurt and plain whole milk)
However, whichever diet you choose, it’s important to make sure you burn more calories than you consume during the day. The recommended daily intake of calories is at least 1,500 for men and 1,200 for women.