So many moms want to know how to get rid of the belly fat they accumulated during pregnancy and beyond. My answer is always simple- cardio. You won’t get a six-pack by doing tons of crunches. You will burn calories and lose weight by doing cardio. You build muscle by strength training. Your muscle tone will show when you lose weight.
That brings me to this week’s exercise- the abdominal crunch. Basic and easy, right? Yup. You should still be doing crunches to strengthen your abdominal muscles. Pregnancy not only stretches them out but many of us avoid doing any abdominal work while pregnant since we can’t lay on our backs and often hear misguided advice about working your abs while baking a bun in the oven.
Here is the basic crunch and how to progress (make the move harder) once you build strength.
1. Lay on your back, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
2. Keep your hands straight out to your sides, your gaze should be straight up to the ceiling.
3. Keep your lower back on the ground/mat. Inhale and slowly exhale and crunch up, taking your shoulder blades off the mat.
4. At the top of the crunch, pause for a second and inhale as you return to the mat.
5. Repeat in a slow and controlled fashion- aim to do a set of 15 to start and try to do 3 sets.
Tips: Breathing correctly is essential in this exercise. You want to inhale through your nose on your way down and exhale through your mouth on your crunch up. Keep your abs contracted throughout the move (brace your tummy like someone is going to punch you) and aim to lift your shoulder blades off the ground with each crunch. Keep your hands to your side in the beginning to really isolate the abs and build strength.
This week, do 3 sets of crunches everyday.
Once you build strength, there are a lot of fun ways to make the abdominal crunch fun. Some ideas are:
- Ab crunch on stability ball
- Ab crunch with legs in table top
- Ab crunch with legs extended straight up
- Ab crunch with torso twist- to work the obliques
- Ab crunch with weight- take a 3 or 5 pound weight- hold it above your head with arms extended and as you crunch up bring the weight with you.
- Ab crunch on BOSU
- Ab crunch on decline bench