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Tried and true tactics for toning your core
by Jessica |  Apr 28, 2014

Whether or not you're willing to admit it, the fact of the matter is: This is the summer of the crop top. 

Even if you don't plan on embracing this trend, at some point or another, the bikini will be unavoidable. Don't stress - with a little work, you can get your middle prepared for whatever abs-baring attire you plan to wear. The key to seeing results is making tweaks to your workout routine and your diet.

Here are some tips for a toned tummy, stat.

Crunches are the most popular core exercises for a reason: They're effective - but only to a point. Instead of your typical crunch, try a lying version to engage even more of the muscles in your middle. Start by lying flat on your back with your arms extended overhead, palms facing each other. Most importantly, make sure your entire back is pressed against the floor. Begin lifting yourself up to a seated position until you form a 45 degree angle with the floor, keeping your arms lifted so that your fingers point toward the ceiling. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat for a full minute for three sets total. 

Don't forget to work your side, too, for a fully sculpted look. A side plank is great for getting your obliques involved, and there are so many modifications you can make to amp up the intensity - and the benefits. Begin by lying on your left side, with resting on your arm from the elbow down. Stack your legs and put your right hand on your hip. Then lift your hips off the floor until you're balancing on your feet and forearm. Hold the pose for 30 seconds and then switch sides, repeating three times on each. If you want more of a challenge for your core, lower and lift your hips repeatedly for 30 to 45 seconds instead of simply holding the plank.

Who knew pushups could be so phenomenal for your abs? Start in the standard pushup position with your feet a little wider than your hips, but hold a 5 to 8 pound dumbbell in each hand. Then lower your body to the floor and after pushing yourself back up, pull a dumbbell into the side of your chest. Lower the dumbbell and repeat on the other side. Do 12 reps on each side.

High-fiber foods are your friends if you want to bust belly fat, because they keep you feeling fuller for longer. So load up on berries, apples, broccoli and leafy greens. Red peppers are another excellent selection: EatingWell magazine reported that the beta carotene and lycopene in these veggies can help to eliminate the compounds that cause fat storage while also facilitating the burning of fat. The magazine also suggested trading meat for beans once in a while - in one Diabetic Medicine study, individuals who got their protein from vegetarian sources blasted more belly fat.

Always opt for whole grains when it comes to carbs, as they provide a high content of magnesium, which is a crucial mineral involved in the metabolism of fat. Make low-fat or nonfat yogurt your go-to breakfast or snack, as Fitness magazine noted that a new study in the International Journal of Obesity found that this calcium-rich food has been shown to promote more weight loss around the mid-section, and additionally, can banish bloating due to the probiotic bacteria.

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