Question: Question from Lize

I have a tummy from having babies. I am currently trying to lose some weight in order to get a flatter tummy. Should I start to exercise my stomach or should I wait until I've lost enough fat?

Answer

Regaining strength in your abdominal muscles
After pregnancy, the muscle you need to pay most attention to is the transverse abdominis. This ‘corset muscle’ acts like an internal splint, helping to close abdominal separation from the inside. This muscle will be responsible for re-flattening your stomach after your pregnancy and delivery.

Although your tummy will be sensitive and needs to be handled with care, you can start practicing gentle strengthening movements. Simply pull in your stomach to feel the necessary muscles work. When doing so, you should feel as if you are pulling your belly-button in towards your spine. Hold this for a few moments – whilst still breathing regularly – then slowly release again. It may seem simple, but practicing this as many times as you can in a day will go a long way towards strengthening your abdominal muscles from the inside out.

Exercising when Fully Recovered
Although you’ll naturally want to focus on getting your stomach back to its pre-pregnancy state, there is no such thing as spot training. Your body will only show results where you want to see them once you are fit all over.

Tips for speedy results:

Practise high intensity cardio and interval training
Shaking up a steady-state cardio routine to one that is varied and explosive has been proven to target more abdominal fat. This is perhaps because you will not only burn more calories during the session, but afterwards as well. The exertion of varying intensities will stimulate your body’s repair cycle more than if you were going for a steady state run. This means more fat and calories burnt for up to 24 hours after training.

Switch up your usual run with 20 seconds of sprinting followed by 60 seconds of jogging or walking. Repeat these intervals 15-20 times each session. As you progress, the 20 seconds can become 30-40 seconds and the rests can reduce to 20- 30 seconds.

Don’t switch all your cardio sessions to high intensity interval training. Aim for two sessions a week, along with one or two regular 30-60 min cardio sessions.

Compound movements for lean mass and increased metabolism
Strength training plays a critical part in toning your abs, as well as the rest of the body. Muscle requires fuel to operate, so the more lean muscle you have, the more calories you burn throughout the day, and the higher your metabolism. Remember, too, the value of real strength training. It is extremely difficult for women to make significant weight gain, so don’t be scared to lift heavy. Aim for 3 sets of 10-12 repetitions, where the weights you’re using mean you struggle to perform the last few reps. This is the weight you should be lifting for significant results. Compound exercises are multi-jointed movements, while isolation exercises only use one. Many people accredit isolated exercises to significant results, but compound exercises are responsible for greater calorie burns during sessions as well as increasing lean muscle tissue at a greater rate, therefore improving your resting metabolism.

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