We’ve all got areas that we wish looked a little different. A little smaller perhaps. Or bigger. Or more toned. And whilst exercise definitely isn’t just about the aesthetics, you’d be forgiven for wanting to work towards something that will make you feel more confident in yourself.
The stomach is an area a lot of us struggle with. We all have different ways in which our bodies distribute excess fat. For some it will go to our thighs, others will see it on their bums and for many, the place it likes to make itself at home is the stomach. This leads to it looking a little less toned than the rest of our body.
So if you’re looking to firm up around the tummy and get your abdominal muscles working, here’s some advice on the workouts and machines for abs you can use to get that core a little stronger.
How can I reduce stomach fat?
The first thing to understand when trying to tone up the stomach is that storing fat in this area of the body is what makes it more difficult to see the efforts of your workout. Storing fat here is normal. It doesn’t mean you’re overweight, unhealthy, or in anyway reflects your fitness.
To reveal a six-pack or a shredded stomach, you need to have an extremely low percentage of body fat. You could have the strongest stomach muscles in the world, but if you have a high amount of body fat in this area, your tummy won’t look like a washboard. The only way to reduce body fat is to create a calorie deficit across a prolonged amount of time where you burn more than you consume. You cannot choose where this fat will be lost from and at what rate.
So if you are looking to lose weight in general, and hope this will begin to reduce from around your stomach, you need to start with creating that calorie deficit. This can be achieved through decreased calorie intake (food) or increased calorie output (exercise). Ideally, a healthy bit of both.
But you might not need to lose weight. Or you might not want to lose weight. Everyone is different and there’s no set rule for when and why you should try to lose fat in the stomach area.
If you’re looking for a stronger core, and perhaps to build muscle in the abdominal area, then the gym is the place to do that. There are plenty of ab machines and core exercises you can do to achieve this and to tone your stomach. The end result will hopefully be a firmer looking tummy.
How can I tone my stomach at the gym?
When people talk about toning their stomach, they’re really referring to the effects that happen off the back of working and building muscle in the abdominal region.
There are four main abdominal muscle groups. The transversus adbominis, rectus abdominis, external olibque muscles and the internal oblique muscles all combine to cover and protect the internal organs. Without getting to technical, you need to be working all these muscle groups with your exercises to get a balanced and even progress of muscle mass growth and therefore toning.
In the same way you’d do compound exercises to workout other parts of your body efficiently, you also need to do compound core exercises to workout your stomach efficiently. The best exercises are always compound ones as they target more than one muscle group at a time.
The reality is, there are lots of exercises which will work your core when your not even aware of it. The deadlift for example, is a superb compound exercise, which not only works your glutes, quads, hamstrings, calves and traps. It’s also works at least two of the four muscle groups in your stomach. A hidden tummy toner.
So chances are, you’re probably working your stomach muscles in the gym with your usual full body workout without even knowing. So there’s no need to go over the top and dedicate whole sessions to your abs alone.
The key is knowing which exercises are worth your time and which ones aren’t. The standard crunch for example is seen as the go to ab exerciser, but in reality doesn’t fully engage all the muscles in your core.
Here’s a quick low down of the best core exercises you can do to work your the muscles in your stomach:
A killer compound workout that works your rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis as well as additional muscles in your lower back and shoulders.
The side plank:
Engages your transversus abdominis and also gets your external and internal obliques involved as well as muscles in your glutes and legs too.
Engages all four abdominal muscle groups plus your lower back and upper back
What gym machines work your abs?
If you’re not keen on mat workouts, there are lots of ways to work your core by using the machines at the gym.
The Captain’s Chair
The Captain’s Chair is perfect for leg raises which will work your rectus abdominis and external obliques. Hanging leg raises can also be done on parallel bars, or dip station. Protect your lower back by not arching it as you lift your legs. Try not to swing your legs and keep control by engaging your core as you continue to raise and lower your legs to a 90 degree angle. We can’t guarantee you’ll be smiling as much as this lady though.
The Sit Up Bench
The sit up bench can look like a scary piece of equipment, but it’s helpful for doing sit ups whilst ensuring the correct form and keeping your legs in place. As mentioned, sit ups only really work the rectus abdominis, so make them a finisher for your core workout rather than the star of the show.
The Rowing Machine
Although it’s not traditionally an ab machine, the rower is a great piece of equipment for mixing it up with your core exercises. From a plank position with your feet on the seat of the rowing machine, try moving your legs towards you and out again, tucking your knees into your chest as you come in. Although tricky, this is arguably the best machine you can use for your stomach as it will target all four abdominal muscle groups.
So whether you’re looking for exercises and machines to tone your stomach, or just want to try something new, there are plenty of options in the gym to get you where you want to be.
With Hussle, you can make your fitness flexible. Use any gym in our network whenever you want. Stop and start whenever you want. Fit fitness into your life, not the other way around.