Getting a flat stomach is a goal for both men and women. It's a sign of fitness, discipline, and hard work. There's also a bit of a genetic component at play too, but make no mistake, the overwhelming majority of individuals who have a flat stomach have put in the work (both in the kitchen and in the gym).
While there are many exercises you can do to burn fat and build abs, it starts with nutrition. Without a proper diet plan in place, you can do all the flat belly exercises you want, but it won't be nearly as effective as if they're performed in conjunction with a proper diet plan (i.e., a calorie deficit).
We’ve discussed countless times before the importance of structuring your diet to support your training, fitness, and physique goals. By and large, to get a flat stomach, you need to lose the extra body fat that's surrounding your midsection. If you are looking for guidance on setting up a diet for fat loss, click here.
Once you've got the diet in place, follow these key exercises for women and men to help achieve the flat stomach you desire.
Top 5 Best Flat Stomach Exercises for Women and Men
#1 Hanging Knee/Leg Raise
One of the most demanding and challenging flat stomach exercises is the hanging leg raise. It works the entire transversus abdominis (the muscles that keep your stomach flat and tight) while also building grip strength (hands, forearms, shoulders, etc.).
Hanging leg raises also work the hip flexors and lats, making this a great total body exercise!
To perform the hanging knee/leg raise:
- Grab a pull with a pronated grip (palms facing away from you), shoulder-width apart.
- Keep your legs, knees, and feet together.
- Tighten your glutes to keep your low back from hyperextending.
- Now, bend your knees and your hips.
- Stop when your thighs reach your chest. Hold for 1-3 seconds.
- Slowly lower your legs back to the starting position.
As with all core/stomach exercises, momentum is the enemy. You want your ab/core muscles to be doing the work, not gravity or momentum.
If the full hanging leg raise is too challenging, you can modify the exercise by performing a hanging knee raise. The same principles apply (i.e., no momentum, slow & controlled reps, etc.).
#2 Ab Wheel Rollout
Next to the hanging knee/leg raise, the ab wheel rollout is possibly the most demanding ab exercise an individual can perform.
To perform the rollout:
- Kneel on the floor and hold the ab roller with both hands, palms facing away.
- Extend by slowly rolling the ab roller away from you.
- Stretch your torso as far as you can without allowing your body to touch the floor.
- During the exercise, keep your core tight, so your back doesn't hyperextend.
- Pause in the fully stretched position and then contract your abs to pull yourself back to the starting position.
#3 Lying Leg Raises
Similar to the hanging leg raise, the lying leg raise trains the transverse abdominis. This variation is performed while lying on the ground, allowing you to focus 100% on your abs and core.
- Lie on the ground (or a bench if there's one available). If the ground is uncomfortable, you can place a yoga mat on the ground and lay on that.
- If you perform the exercise on a bench, let your legs hang off the end as it will increase your range of motion (and the challenge of the exercise!)
- Place your hands under your butt with your palms facing down
- Keeping your legs as straight as possible, slowly raise them to 90-degrees (perpendicular to the floor). Hold the contraction at the top for a second, then slowly lower your legs to the starting position.
- You can hold a dumbbell between your ankles or use ankle weights for an added challenge.
#4 Vacuum Pose
A mainstay of the "golden era" of bodybuilding, the stomach vacuum (or vacuum pose), is a lost art. But rest assured, if you're looking for the pinnacle of a lean midsection, the vacuum pose is it!
Be forewarned; it will take A LOT of practice (and patience) to achieve the vacuum pose.
Here’s how to perform it:
- Stand up straight and place your hands on your hips
- Breathe all the air out of your lungs.
- Now, expand your chest, bring your stomach in as much as possible, and hold.
- While bringing your stomach in, imagine that you’re trying to touch your belly button to your backbone.
- Hold this vacuumed position for a few seconds and slowly return your midsection to its starting position.
- That is one repetition.
If you're starting, a good goal to aim for is 3 "sets" (each rep is a set), with each held for 20 seconds. As you improve, you can extend the duration of each hold. You can hold it for 45-60 seconds when you get good at the vacuum pose.
#5 Side Plank with Rotation
When it comes to exercises that help make a flat stomach, the emphasis is almost always on crunch or plank-type movements that train the transverse abdominis (the muscles that make up the 6-pack). However, failing to address the other muscles of your abs/core will open up the possibility for future injury or incomplete development of your midsection.
That's where the side plank with rotation comes in. It takes the standard side plank and increases the challenge by forcing your body to rotate while maintaining a straight line from feet to head. In addition to training your abs and obliques, this exercise also targets the glutes, lower back, and shoulders.
To perform the exercise:
- Lie down with your right side on the floor (or an exercise mat).
- Place your feet together, one on top of the other.
- Now, prop yourself up on your right elbow and forearm.
- Next, contract your abs and glutes while elevating your hips so that your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.
- Now, raise your left arm so that it is straight up to the ceiling
- Reach under with your left hand and twist so that your chest becomes parallel to the floor
- Pause, then rotate back to the starting position.
- Repeat for reps.
How Long Will It Take to Start to See Results?
The amount of time it takes to achieve a flat stomach is different for everyone. It depends on a number of factors, including:
- Starting body fat percentage
- Rate of weight loss
- Amount of physical activity
- Discipline with diet and exercise
- How large of a calorie deficit do you maintain
For individuals who have less body fat to lose and those that have the most discipline, they may be able to see signs of progress within a couple of weeks. It will take considerably longer for others who are a bit more "casual" with their diet and exercise regimen.
Stay positive, get support, and be ready for one of the best adventures of your life! Regardless of how long it takes, remember that fitness is not a destination -- it's a lifestyle. A flat stomach is just one pit stop on your journey.
What About Supplements?
As we stated at the outset of this article, the key to achieving a flat belly starts with a proper nutrition plan. To tone and tighten your midsection, exercise can be added on top of a reduced-calorie diet.
Naturally, though, many will wonder about the utility/effectiveness of fat burners and toning lotions.
Are they effective? Do the work?
The truth is that not all weight loss aids, appetite suppressants, or fat-burning creams are the same. Some are well-formulated, while others aren't worth the packaging in which they are sold.
SteelFit® has researched and created a line of potent supplements to support your quest for a flat stomach and get the results you want!
Click here to learn more about our best-selling line of High-quality topical toning lotions (including our Abs of Steel® fat burning cream) as well as our other stimulant and stimulant-free fat burners.