By Jillian Michaels
Is your muffin top a 2011 holiday gift that just keeps on giving? Whether your goal is to lose it for good, or to finally try to achieve those elusive six pack abs, TV fitness and wellness expert Jillian Michaels shares her results-driven techniques and advice for helping you win the battle of the belly bulge once and for all.
According to Michaels, "The stomach is a major, if not the major problem area, for men and women. I can't tell you how often I'm asked for advice on how to achieve killer abs, flatten the mommy pouch or lose the love handles. If you really want to get a flat stomach -- or score that six pack -- follow these tips and make 2012 the year you finally make it happen!"
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Check out Michaels' tips below, and scroll down for specific exercises and food suggestions:
Focus on Your Entire Body -- Not Just Your Stomach
Contrary to what many people believe, doing thousands of sit-ups or crunches all day, every day, will not get you closer to achieving those washboard abs. Yep, you read that right. Both belly bulge and love handles are about excess body fat, NOT lack of muscle. That's why ab exercises alone are not the solution. Scoring a flat stomach is all about workouts that impact different muscle groups at the same time - so you're strengthening your entire body AND burning more calories.
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This is why I'm such a huge advocate of circuit training and use them in my online workouts and in my DVDs. When done properly, circuit training builds lean muscle and improves aerobic fitness simultaneously, making this type of exercise the most effective fat-burning workout you can get. In fact, if you aren't already up on circuit training, it's time to get acquainted now because it should be your new weight-loss best friend.
Each circuit is a combination of strength training and cardio exercises (about four to five) that are performed directly after one another, with little or no rest in between. When a set of these moves is done, you go back to the beginning and do them again before moving on to the next circuit. A typical circuit-training workout will get your heart rate up and impact a variety of muscles - not just one body part - which is the BEST way to burn off that belly fat.
Build Up Your Core
Get ready to start planking - and I don't mean the form of 'planking' that has gone viral. The plank I'm referring to is a powerful move that targets your core abdominal muscles, practices balance, and strengthens your chest and back muscles. This pose is not as easy as it looks or sounds, but trust me, the effects are well worth the extra effort it takes to master this move.
To do a basic plank, start in a push-up position, except keep your hands directly under your shoulders instead of outside your chest. Legs should be straight out behind you with feet together. You are balancing on your palms and the balls of your feet. Hold this static contraction for as long as you can. Work your way up to a minute, and then challenge yourself to hold the pose even longer. What I love about the plank is that there are so many different variations - side plank (pictured), reverse plank, plank-ups, plank twists and more. Different types of planks target different core muscles, so do yourself a favor and work a plank move into at least one of your daily circuits. You'll definitely see results.
Learn the Truth About Trouble Zones
There is nothing to love about love handles, and there's no quick fix solution to getting rid of them. Sorry buddy, but it's true. Targeting "problem areas" is tough because fat is burned systematically across the body according to your own unique genetics. Focusing on one region of the body won't make fat disappear altogether, but there are some exercises that will bring blood, and thus oxygen, to these problem areas and I believe that this oxidization will help break down the fat. For love handles, a major trouble zone for both men and women, try this side-bend stretch. Remember, it's not a magic fix, but it may help to break down the fat that builds up in that area of the body.
(Do this stretch at least three times a day throughout the day.)
Purpose: To stretch the triceps, upper back, abdominals, and obliques. Here's how you do it: Bend to one side, while holding your opposite arm overhead, then quickly stretch to the other side, raising the other arm. This drill should be done in a controlled, continuous fashion for 10 stretches on each side of your body.
Eat the Right Foods
First, let's get something straight; all processed foods need to go. Get rid of the potato chips, microwave dinners, and definitely put an end to those fast food fixes. The sodium, preservatives and sugars alone will help keep your belly looking bloated and defeat your efforts. Replace the junk food with whole, quality, organic foods that are packed with healthy nutrients, not preservatives. Then, work these three foods into your diet for maximum belly-fat burn.
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Beans and legumes contain the best kinds of carbs and also contain resistant starch, which aids in your post-meal fat burn. Beans also help you feel fuller and store less fat.
Berries are another great fat-fighting food. They have been proven to stop individual fat cells from getting larger and encourage fat cells to release adiponectin, a hormone that helps reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar, and reverse leptin resistance.
Nuts are another diet essential that can help to keep your tummy taut. Research has found that people who eat nuts twice a week are much less likely to gain weight than those who don't.
Say No to Happy Hour
I'm not going to tell you to abstain from alcohol completely, I'm pretty open about how much I enjoy a little tequila and organic red wine from time to time. But when you're trying to lose weight and tone up, alcohol is the ultimate enemy. Alcohol releases estrogen into the bloodstream and when you have excess estrogen, you're more prone to hold onto weight. Ever seen a guy with a beer belly? It's the excess estrogen causing that fat and inhibiting muscle growth.
Alcohol also lowers your inhibitions, decreases your willpower, and stimulates your appetite. The result? You in a drive-thru ordering a cheeseburger and fries at 2 a.m. Now THAT is definitely not the route to a rock hard six pack. Your best bet is to take a hiatus from happy hour until you meet your weight-loss goals and can re-introduce alcohol into your diet in a healthy way.
Cut Your Sodium Intake and Up Your Water Intake
Bloating isn't all in your head. It IS possible to carry extra water weight in your tummy. To beat the bloat, decrease your sodium intake to 1,500 mg a day and increase your water consumption. It's easy to start monitoring your sodium intake by reading food labels. Limiting the amount of sodium you consume will help you reduce your water retention and look leaner in your clothes.