Lower belly pooch is surely the devil's work. This area tends to bloat during that time of the month and stay puffy long after your cycle's ended. And no matter how many sit-ups we do, our abs still don't seem to look like any of the Victoria's Secret models' abs—okay, maybe we've set the bar a little high here, but what gives?
We asked Cindy Leos, fitness expert extraordinaire, to share her foolproof tips for getting a flat tummy before you know it. But before we get to her easy moves, she wants you to know one thing: Your diet could be causing that annoying belly bloat. It sounds like a no-brainer, but the truth is that sometimes the seemingly harmless food items we ingest are doing more harm than good. Take, for example, artificial sugars and processed foods. You may think you're grabbing a quick snack to fuel your morning, but it turns out these ingredients cause major water retention. Instead, she suggests incorporating more leafy greens, asparagus, cucumbers, and natural yogurt (probiotics do wonders for bloat) into your diet.
Now, onto the fitness moves! To learn how to tone your own belly, keep scrolling!
"Begin by lying on your back (you can add a Pilates ball like the Stott Pilates Mini Stability Ball, $17, for increased difficulty by placing it under the lower back, positioning the pelvis in a posterior tilt). Inhale to prepare, and as you exhale, engage the lower tummy muscles and lift your legs into tabletop position. Keep the lower tummy muscles engaged throughout the entire exercise to maintain pelvic stability and to effectively target the lower abs. Keep neck and shoulders relaxed. Inhale to prepare, exhale extend the legs out at an angle and inhale draw the belly in and return to your starting position. "Do a set of 15," says Leos.
"Extend legs straight to the ceiling. Inhale, lower the legs, and as you exhale, draw the abs in tighter to lift the legs back up to your starting position. Do a set of 15," explains Leos. A pro tip from Leos? Always keep your pelvis stable (for all of these exercises) and always keep your movements within your range of motion.
While this exercise may be challenging, once you build up your stability, it's definitely worth the effort. "Legs are turned out, heels glued together, and feet are flat as if pressed up against a wall. Inhale prepare, exhale shoot the legs straight out and squeeze your inner thighs and pull the lower tummy in drawing the belly button to your spine. Inhale return to starting position. Do a set of 15. After frogs on the ball, complete the first set with a 60-second plank hold then repeat from exercise one," says Leos. For a modified version of the exercise, see the video below.
Ed note: Quotes have been edited and shortened for content.
Have you found any great ways to tone your lower abs? Please share with us below!
Opening Image: Essence Sportswear