Cassandra Govan, personal trainer and owner of 2xtreme Fitness Management Corporation in Illinois, has helped numerous women achieve sexy abs for fitness competitions. Check out her six tips for blasting belly fat.
Govan points out that working out only burns fat on top of the muscle, which will not produce a flat tummy.
"A clean and healthy diet attacks the fat underneath the skin, and this, combined with the other five workouts in this article will banish the blubber for good," says Govan. She also warns people to stay away from fad diets. "They are called that for a reason — they come and they go over time!"
Govan's recommendation: When calculating your daily calories, consider these proportions: Consume 10 to 35 percent from protein, 20 to 35 percent from fat and 45 to 65 percent from carbohydrates. This high percentage of carbs should come from at least three servings of fruit and veggies per day. Solid fats and added sugars should be within 5 to 15 percent of your total calories per day.
HIIT has become a popular and effective way to burn more calories during your workout.
"We work out to expend more energy (calories). When we do regular cardio, our body tends to only burn calories as long as we are performing the exercise and maybe 24 hours afterwards. HIIT training, however, allows you to burn more calories for 24 to 48 hours. Those calories we are burning days later contribute to our reduction of fat, including belly fat," says Govan.
Govan's technique: Complete intervals of passive (little to no movement) or active (light activity) exercises and intense (15 to 90 seconds of super-sweaty movement) exercises within a 20-minute span, switching between the two. Example: Jog for five minutes (active) then sprint for 45 seconds (intense). Repeat for 20 minutes.
Govan says this exercise technique strengthens the abs, back and chest (as long as you squeeze your abs while performing it) and is popular for women who compete in figure and bikini competitions.
"The exercise particularly helps improve your respiratory system, which in turn makes it easier to complete other abdominal exercises," says Govan.
Govan's technique: Begin in a four-point kneeling position (on all fours) with your back in neutral position. Tuck your chin in, round your back upward and pull abs in tight. Hold for three to five seconds, then release. Keep neck in neutral position. Repeat.
Similar to the "Roman chair" but done on the floor, Govan says leg-lifts also work on hip flexors, and she recommends incorporating them into your fitness routine if you like to wear low-rise jeans and want to show the "cuts" below the belt line.
Govan's technique: Lie on the floor and place your hands under your butt with palms facing down, or keep hands at your side. With your legs straight, raise both or one leg perpendicular to the floor. Keep your abs contracted while your leg(s) are raised, then slowly lower your leg(s) to the start position, still keeping those abs tight.
Bicycles work your six-pack muscles and love handles, and will help define your mid-section. Bicycles are one of the top muscle-stimulating exercises and are commonly used by fitness professionals worldwide, Govan says.
Govan's technique: Keep your lower back on the floor at all times, with your abs tight. Lift one knee to a 45-degree angle, followed by the other knee, as if pedaling a bicycle. As you bring each knee up, touch your elbow to the opposite knee as you twist back and forth.
This challenging move helps flatten the abs, improves your endurance and strengthens the core.
"By modifying a regular plank with the elbow-to-knee function, you can actually add one additional 'to do' to your list, which is tighten up those obliques," says Govan.
Govan's technique: In a push-up motion, raise your body off the floor and support your weight on your forearms and toes. Your back needs to be flat and your head, neck and spine in a straight line. In a circular motion (away from your body), bend your knee toward your elbow, crunching in your love handles tightly, then return to the start position. Do the same movement on the other side, alternating between both legs, or do one side at a time.
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