Ever since I was a kid, my family has (cruelly) reminded me that I didn't inherit the "hourglass figure" genes, so I was convinced for a long time that I would never be able to get rid of the extra belly on my midsection. I tried everything from Pilates and HIIT cardio to waist trainers and juice cleanses. But none of it worked — that is, until I incorporated some good ol' fashioned weightlifting into my routine.
Over the last several months, I've been able to shrink the size of my belly, and I've even dropped down a dress size. And the kicker? I rarely do any ab exercises. Reducing my belly fat came down to doing the following movements a few times a week (and eating a healthy, balanced diet, of course).
Yes, your legs and your glutes are working to push the weight back up, but your core is an integral part of the movement.
You may be wondering how a lower-body movement would be more effective than planks, sit-ups, and crunches. After all, these are all technically core moves, but a squat isn't. That's a common misconception that my trainer tried to squash when he said, "Every single exercise should be a core exercise."
There are so many compound lifts in strength training that use multiple muscle groups at once, and the front squat is one of the best examples. When you're holding the barbell across your chest and squatting down, you have to contract the hell out of your abs in order to stay upright and stabilize the weight. Yes, your legs and your glutes are working to push the weight back up, but your core is an integral part of the movement.
Just like with a front squat, when you're bending down to deadlift a heavy weight, you simply must contract your abs so you can safely and effectively pick that baby off the ground. I work on deadlifts three times a week, and each time I use a different variation, all of which fire up my core. My favorite variations are sumo deadlifts, single-leg deadlifts, and conventional deadlifts with my toes elevated (this provides extra activation of the hamstrings).
Most people vastly underestimate the power of an overhead press. It's easy to use momentum or arch your back to get the weight over your head, but if you focus closely on the movement, you'll find that your core is a crucial part of the exercise. The more I've been working to perfect my overhead press, the more I realize that my abs are getting just as much of a workout as my shoulders.
Here's a core-heavy variation my trainer loves: I kneel down with my knees side-by-side, slightly tuck my pelvis, and raise both dumbbells over my head. Without having your feet firmly planted on the floor, your core has to work overtime to stabilize your whole body and safely bring the weights over your head. Ouch!
A lot of the movements in Animal Flow require a tremendous amount of core strength.
This is a wild card that I never thought would sculpt my abs. But my abs have never been so sore than the first couple weeks I started doing Animal Flow. If you don't know what Animal Flow is, Mike Fitch, the creator behind the program explained it like this to POPSUGAR: "Animal Flow is a ground-based movement program that's designed to improve the function and communication of the 'Human Animal. It looks like a combination of gymnastics, yoga, and breakdancing."
A lot of the movements in Animal Flow require a tremendous amount of core strength. Going from bear plank into a front kick-through (you can watch videos on the Animal Flow Instagram to get a sense of what these terms mean) forces you to contract your abs. It burns like hell!