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Top tips for fab abs – how to tone and tighten your tummy

How to get a six-pack? We've all seen the adverts that'll let us into the secret of blasting away that tummy fat to get fabulous abs.
WebMD Feature
Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks

Tempting as the adverts that promise fab abs are, in reality there’s no miracle solution. Fitness and nutrition experts say it’s down to three key things: posture, exercise, and diet.

1. Posture

Poor posture is a key factor in making your tummy look fatter than it really is. So stand tall and don’t slouch, with your shoulders back and chest up, the abs pull themselves in.

For better posture while standing, align your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees and knees over ankles. Keep the fronts of the shoulders open like a shirt on a hanger, instead of a shirt on a peg. Draw your navel to your spine and keep your weight even on the heels and balls of your feet.

2. Whole-body exercise

It’s not all about doing 500 sit ups a day. To get flatter abs you need a mixture of exercises. Fitness expert, Kathryn Freeland, from Absolute Fitness says “It’s all about combination.”

Cardio work is key as you could have great muscle strength and core abs but, with a heavy layer of fat over the top, who’d know it? So work on getting to the right weight first by shedding excess pounds. Try high-energy aerobic exercise for this, running and circuits are good for boosting your heart rate and burning that fat.

London-based fitness expert, Alessia De Magistris, recommends boxing to shift the weight and work the heart but she too says: "The secret to flat abs is a mixture so after the boxing do Pilates to develop strength and flexibility around your core.”

Pilates, yoga and gym classes - like body balance - are essential because the focus is on your core. So you use those abs but also you are using your arms and legs, back muscles and gluteal muscles too.

Pilates focuses on developing not just the top abdominal muscle layer but the internal and external obliques (the side abdominals) and the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle). Kathryn Freeland says, “It’s all about control and using the correct technique.”

Crunches, leg lifts and sit-ups are all good providing they are done slowly and properly.

The crunch - Lie on your back with your knees bent and your hands behind your ears. Slowly crunch up bringing your shoulder blades off the ground. 12-15 repetitions works the upper section of your abs.

The plank - Start on your hands and knees and come up into a push-up plank position, balancing on hands (or elbows) and toes (or knees). With wrists under shoulders, keep your back straight and the abs and gluteal muscles tight (to keep the back from sagging). Hold the position and breathe out for 10 seconds, exhaling to tighten the abs and draw the navel to the spine.

The leg lower - Lie down, curl the upper body, chest over ribs, with your hands behind your head. Lift the legs up with knees bent at 90 degrees, knees over hips, ankles level with knees. Keeping the hips down, slowly lower the legs toward the floor without changing the bend in the knees, then lift them back up.

The seated rotation - Sitting up, bend knees and legs together and place arms across the chest or in front of you. Tuck the tailbone and roll back slightly as you alternate, rotating the spine right and left.

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