Who doesn’t want a flatter belly? I often hear people say that a toned stomach is simply not attainable — however, with the right knowledge and a little discipline, it can be achieved.
A crucial step is to re-condition the deep abdominal muscle or transversus abdominis. The first step is to find the muscle. Place your hands around the sides of your waist and cough. You should feel a muscle there tighten, as your stomach draws in. This is your transversus abdominis, it wraps around your torso from front to back like a corset. Vertically, it runs from the pelvis to the ribs.
Learning how to engage this deep abdominal muscle is the first step. To begin, take a deep inhale in to your belly then exhale to tighten the muscle around your waist. Draw the back of your waist, or the small of your back, in towards the front of your belly as you draw your belly button up. To some it feels like putting on a corset that makes your waist narrower and spine taller.
The following exercises reinforce the engagement patterns of the transversus abdominis while challenging its strength. Keep focusing on your breath and proper engagement as you perform them. The exercises can be done every day.
1. Single leg stretch
Begin on your back with a neutral spine and legs in tabletop position. Neutral is the position of the spine where the natural ‘s’ shaped curves are maintained. You will have a small space under your low back. Exhale to engage your transversus abdominis as you float one leg at a time to tabletop position.
Exhale as you extend your right leg out to 45 degrees as you deepen the belly button in and up. Inhale to draw the leg back in to tabletop position. On the next exhale, reach the left leg out then inhale to draw it back in. Maintain a stable pelvis and an engaged transversus abdominis as you repeat for 15 reps.
2. Knees off
Start with your hands and knees in an all fours position with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Find a long, neutral spine.
Exhale to deeply engage the transversus abdominis and float your knees off the mat just a few inches. Inhale to lower them back down. Maintain a neutral spine throughout and make sure your belly doesn’t bulge out as you lift your knees. Perform 10 reps.
3. Up Stretch
Begin in a plank position with a long reach from your heels to the top of your head.
Reach your sits bones up to the sky as you press back and fold at the hips to come to a downward-facing dog position. Exhale to deepen your belly as you lengthen back to plank. Focus on continuing to lengthen and engage your waist throughout the positions. Perform 10 reps.
Repeat this routine up to three times for a great ab workout! For more fitness tips, sign up for our One Small Thing newsletter.
Erika Bloom was one of many fitness and well-being experts at Robb Report’s second-annual Health & Wellness Summit. You can view all tips from the roster of fitness professionals that presented over the course of the Summit on the Robb Report website.