Just look at some of the biggest names in bodybuilding, mainly back in the Golden era, and you can instantly see the effects of having a smaller waist. Think of the master of proportion, Frank Zane, who had a tiny, 28-inch waistline. Arnie (pictured) was far taller than Zane but maintained a sleek 32-inch core.
Sculpting a leaner and smaller waist is not just about spending hours doing crunches, sit-ups and side bends. The muscles making all the difference are hidden much deeper, many layers beneath that showy six-pack. You must target these muscles first and foremost. Not only do these deep core muscles pull your waistline in good and tight, they also improve your lifting. A good, solid, strong core is key for efficient power transfer in big lifts like squats and deadlifts.
Here are the top five exercises for a smaller waistline. Remember, taking Sheer Strength Labs Thermogenic Fat Burners in combination with these moves is the best way to strip back stubborn belly fat and show off your newly sculpted midsection. Get yours now to prepare for what’s to come.
This is a massively overlooked exercise. In fact, most people don’t even know about it. However, the stomach vacuum might well be the most important exercise you perform to get a flatter, smaller waist. It’s not much of an “exercise” at all in gym terms. It can be performed anywhere, you need no equipment. You don’t even need a whole lot of effort. You could do the stomach vacuum while at the supermarket, stuck in a traffic queue, or even while sitting at your desk. Sound perfect? Maybe so.
The stomach vacuum works the deep core muscles, primarily the transversus abdominus, a large sheet-like muscle sitting beneath the visible muscle groups and covers almost all of the front and side of the abdomen. If this muscle is not tight, strong, and toned, you could potentially have the greatest, leanest six pack in the world but still have a pot belly. Sold? Let’s now get down to the nitty-gritty: performing the stomach vacuum is simple. Holding it for any length of time will take practice, however. Begin by mastering the standing vacuum.
You might only be able to hold the vacuum for 20 seconds at first. That’s not a problem; it will improve. Do three holds. Set yourself targets of small increases each session. You can also perform the vacuum while sitting on all fours or doing the plank that incidentally is the next exercise.
The plank is an excellent exercise for the entire core area, from the abs to the lower back and the obliques to the deep core muscles. The plank is a staple move for Pilates: a fitness and strength system often overlooked by weight trainers, but it helps with muscular balance and injury prevention.
The plank is performed simply by assuming a press-up position but with the elbows and forearms on the ground. The back should be kept flat. In fact, you should be aiming for a straight line from your heels to the back of your head. Hold yourself in this position for as long as possible while taking slow, shallow breaths. The powerful, isometric contraction of the entire core area is excellent for tightening the muscles and giving you a smaller waist.
Shown in the pic above is a variation of the plank that focuses on the obliques and is called a side plank. This is a great way to tighten the muscles of the side of the trunk and rib cage.
Cross body crunches activate more of your abdominal muscles than regular crunches. Training your upper and lower abs and your obliques.
Lay on your back, with your knees bent as you would in a regular crunch. Place your hands either on top of your head or at your temples. Either way, make sure you don’t pull on your head and risk a neck injury. Now, contract your abs and lift your body up from the floor at an angle (See pic). Simultaneously lift the opposite knee. Touch your elbow on your knee and return to the start position. Try not to reach out with your elbow or across with your knee. Instead, concentrate on lifting your shoulder using your abs. You can either train each side individually or alternate, but either is good. Moving slowly up and down intensifies the impact. High rep sets are the key to trimming up your waistline. Performing weighted versions build the muscles thicker rather than tone and sculpt. Sheer Strength Labs 100% Pure Creatine Monohydrate refuels the muscle fibers faster so you can push out that extra rep or two making a bigger difference. Find your suitable mix to enhance your workout.
Leg raises of any description are great for tightening the lower abs, that slab of muscle right below your six pack. The main variations are lying (pictured) or hanging. Hanging is better and harder due to the effects of gravity at the top of the movement, but swinging is an issue. You can do leg raises in a dip station to help with this. Some gyms carry specialty dip machines with a backrest to eliminate the problem. Simply lay or hang, and raise the legs (as shown) by contracting the lower abs. Feel the burn on the way back down. If you find it hard to raise your straight legs, you can bend your knees to make it easier.
Yup, we said it: cardio. You can do as many fancy abs and core exercises as you want, but if you have a layer of fat around your middle, you will never have a small waist. Your waist will be strong, but not slim. The best way to burn that fat is by doing cardio. Now, cardio doesn’t mean you have to go over to the dark side of the gym with all the lycra and disco music. That’s where you can hop on a treadmill and watch yourself in a mirror for an hour. Cardio doesn’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t have to be redundant. All that matters is the intensity of your training. Here is where you get the good news. To lose body fat most effectively, you must perform cardio at a fairly low intensity. Use a heart rate monitor to know what level you are.
Here comes the bad news, though. You need to find out roughly what your maximum heart rate is. It can be estimated by using the calculation, 220 bpm minus your age, but everybody is different. It’s best to go to that dark place at least once and find out your max. Now, the range you want to be training is between 40 and 70% of your maximum heart rate. Or to be more precise, the most effective range within this broader spectrum is 55-65%. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, this intensity feels like you are working and breaking a sweat, but you aren’t getting out of breath. You should be able to maintain this for a little while.
But cardio in the gym is seriously boring! So why do it?!
The only real reason you need to do cardio on a treadmill is if you have an injury such as a knee problem. Otherwise, get outside. Take the dog for a brisk walk. Go for a jog along the river path. Get on your bike and hit a few trails. Swim laps in the pool. As long as you’re staying in that fat burning zone, it doesn’t particularly matter what activity you choose.
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Get started with these five exercises today, and you will be well on your way to a smaller waist. Pronto. Exercises like crunches and leg raises are best performed between one and three times per week, but you can perform the stomach vacuum as many times as is comfortable and wherever you like. Next time you’re stuck in line, make use of the time and tighten them deep core muscles. We’ll be glad you did it.
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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