Frustrated with doing crunches every day and not seeing any results? You’re not alone. Many people work out to obtain killer abs, and who can blame them? There’s no downside to a great stomach. Clothes and swimsuits fit better, and it is certainly good motivation to continue eating healthy and working out regularly. However, a great stomach doesn’t start — or end, for that matter — with crunches. “Crunches work only the muscles on the front and sides of your abdomen, but it’s important to target all the muscles of the core to get more defined abs — including lower back, hips, and upper thighs,” says Lou Schuler, co-author of The New Rules of Lifting for Abs, to Shape.
Instead of the same old crunches, try one of these ab routines designed to work your entire abdomen. It’s also important to incorporate foods that are guaranteed to help with a flat stomach. Ready to work your way to enviable abs? Here’s your know-all guide.
If you are just starting your abs endeavor, ease into it with this beginner’s routine, per Fitness. Get ready to feel the burn!
Butterfly Crunch: Lie on your back with the soles of your feet together as close to your body as possible, with your knees bent out to the side. Place your hands behind your head, with your elbows in line with your ears. Keeping your back flat on the floor and your stomach muscles contracted, exhale and curl your chest up a few inches off the floor toward your legs. Lower to start, and repeat 10 times.
Side to Side: Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor, arms at your sides. Exhale and contract your abs as you slide your right hand toward your right foot. Your head and neck should remain aligned and your lower back pressed to the floor. Return to start, then switch sides. Repeat 15 times.
Front Plank: Start on your hands and knees. Keeping your back and ab muscles contracted, drop down to your forearms while extending your legs out behind you so you are resting on the balls of your feet. Be sure to keep your back straight, hips up, and your neck relaxed. Hold for three seconds, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.
If you’re ready to crank it up a notch, you can also try this intermediate routine, as shown in Fitness.
Fingers to Toes: Lie on your back with your legs straight and extended toward the ceiling, with your arms down by your sides. Exhale and contract your abs as you crunch up from your waist and extend your hands toward your toes. Keep your back flat on the floor. Work up to two sets of 15 reps.
Scissors: Lie on your back with your fingers resting behind your head. Keeping your abs tight, raise your left knee, and touch it to your right elbow. Return to start, then raise your right knee and touch it to your left elbow. Alternate for 15 reps in a smooth, continuous motion, keeping your abs engaged and hands relaxed so you don’t pull on your neck. Aim for two sets.
Reverse Crunch With Resistance Bands: Lie on your back with your knees bent, arms down by your sides, holding one end of a band in each hand, with the band wrapped around the tops of your shins. Raise your knees toward your chest until your hips leave the floor. Hold for three seconds, and lower to start. Repeat for two sets of 10 reps.
If you’re looking to get your abs into tip-top shape quickly, Shape recommends this workout to help shed belly fat. One of the moves even gives you the option to crank up the heat, so keep pushing yourself if it doesn’t feel challenging enough.
Walkout From Push-Up Position: Start in the push-up position with your hands two inches wider than your shoulders. Now walk your hands out as far as possible, then walk back. Do 10 to 12 reps. If you want to make it harder, lift one leg before you walk your hands out.
Alligator Drag: Find a stretch of floor that allows you to go forward 10 to 20 yards, and grab anything that will slide over the surface with minimal friction. Suggestions: Use dinner plates or plastic bags if you’re on a carpeted floor. For wood or tile, use towels. Start in a push-up position with your feet on the bags, towels, or plates. Walk yourself forward with your hands to the end of your runway (aim for at least 10 yards.) Rest for 60 to 90 seconds (or as long as you need to recover) and repeat the alligator walk back to where you started. That’s one set. Repeat one more time.
Foods to Eat
If you’re ready for a toned stomach, be sure to incorporate some (or all) of these foods into your diet.
Almonds: According to Women’s Health, almonds and other nuts (with skins intact) build muscle and help reduce cravings. Almonds keeps you from overeating and give your abs the nourishment they need. Additionally, this delicious snack fights obesity, heart disease, muscle loss, wrinkles, cancer, and high blood pressure.
Tomatoes: Similar to yogurt and bananas, tomatoes are bursting with potassium, which can help combat bloat-inducing sodium, per Self.
Beans and Legumes: Another muscle builder, these superfoods will help burn fat and regulate digestion — both of which are important for a great six pack, per Women’s Health.
Cruciferous Vegetables: Shape recommends loading up on broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peppers, and yellow beans, which contain vitamins A, C, and K, in addition to folate, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, and fiber.
Salmon: This fish is high in Omega-3, helps fight inflammation, and provides a perfect dose of protein to help fuel your muscles, according to The Huffington Post.
Watermelon: Not only does this fruit reduce fat build-up, but it can also prevent your arteries from clogging up, writes The Huffington Post.
Olive Oil: Shape writes that a diet high in monosaturated fats, such as olive oil, can help shed belly fat, even if you don’t change your calorie intake or rev up your exercise.
Vinegar: You know the odd smell associated with vinegar? Turns out it may just be fighting fat for you. “The study found that in overweight individuals who consumed 1 or 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar daily for 12 weeks had significantly lower body weight, BMI, visceral (belly) fat, and waist circumference than the control group that didn’t consume any vinegar,” Erin Palinski, a dietician and personal trainer, tells Shape. “Researchers feel this may be due to vinegar’s acetic acid, which may switch on genes that pump out proteins that break down fat.”
Foods to Avoid
Soda: Stay away from carbonated beverages! “These gassy drinks can fill our bellies with air, causing the stomach to look distended and bloated. Instead aim for water or calorie-free beverages rich in antioxidants (which decrease inflammation which may be linked with increased abdominal fat storage) such as green tea,” Palinski says to Shape.
Refined Carbs: No matter how delicious refined carbs are, it’s important to avoid white flours and white rice. They’re both digested quickly, causing spikes in insulin and blood sugar levels. The increased level of insulin can promote increased fat storage in the abdominal area, according to Shape.
Sweets: This includes candy, cookies, and crackers, according to Livestrong. Sweets, especially the ones dripping in high-fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners, don’t provide protein or other nutrients. Many of these foods also contain a lot of calories, meaning there’s a good chance your body is going to store some of it as fat.
Alcohol: Alcoholic beverages also contain a lot of simple carbs and no nutrients, Livestrong writes. Yes, there are some benefits that come with the occasional drink (like red wine), but consuming a lot definitely prevents your abs from reaching their full potential.