Being slim is no guarantee for having a flat stomach. Just walk around the beach on a hot summer day and observe the number of thin people with mild to extreme pot bellies. Being underweight does not mean a slim physique or good health. If you want to firm up your waist line, strengthen your back and trim that spare tire, read on.
The popular approach to flattening a stomach is often crunches, crunches, crunches. Then cardio, cardio, cardio. And finally count calories, calories, calories. Yep. It does the short run. But, I have it on teenagers to athletes, soldiers, women and teenagers. Working out like crazy, while starving might get you into your best clothes prior to a wedding, prom or date, but your body will be straining to snap back into its original form.
A more intelligent approach is to work on your posture first. If this sounds ridiculous, try pulling back your shoulders and squeezing your shoulder blades together. Amazing, eh? Your stomach just sucked itself in a couple of inches. This is part of the success of systems like Pilates, power yoga and some martial arts: the trainees stand taller and appear slimmer. So, how to improve your posture in record time?
Generally speaking, a slouched posture often has the following muscle problems:
? Weak upper back
? Tight chest and frontal shoulder muscles
? Tight and weak lower back
? Weak abdominal muscles
? Tight hamstrings
? Tight hip flexors
There, now that you might feel that your world has gone wrong, consider the following exercises:
1. The lunge
2. Downward Dog
3. Upward Dog
4. The Yoga Sun Salutation
The Lunge is a basic fencing position. The front leg is bent at the knee and the rear leg is held straight, while the upper body is held upright. If your legs are too tight bring them closer together. The front knee should strive to stay above the ankle so that the knee does not get out of alignment. Gently rock back and forth. This will stretch out the hip flexors (on the straight leg). Apply the exercise to both legs.
The Downward Dog is performed from the plank or push up position with the feet spread more than shoulder width apart, weight on your hands and balls of your feet. While keeping your arms straight, lower your shoulders and head so that you are looking between your feet. At the same time, push your hips up to the sky, while trying to extend your tailbone. Beginners will find their heels raise off of the ground and will have difficulty keeping their legs straight. The Downward Dog will stretch out the frontal shoulder muscles, lower back muscles, hamstrings and calf muscles, while strengthening the abdominal muscles.
From the Downward Dog, move into the Upward Dog. Drop your hips and raise your head. Move your weight from the balls of your feet, unto the tops of your feet. Keep your knees off of the ground. Now reach with the top of your head to the ceiling. Do not slouch. Instead try to separate your head from your shoulders. Let your chest project forward. The Upward Dog stretches the abdominals, hip flexors, chest and strengthens the shoulders and lower back.
The Yoga Sun Salutation is more complicated, but is worth the effort. It combines all 3 previous exercises and then some.
1. Stand erect, feet shoulder width apart. Inhale and raise your arms above your head.
2. Exhale and bend forward at the waist while bending your knees slightly.
3. Step your right leg back into a lunge. Keep your upper body upright. Inhale.
4. Step back with your left leg, into a Downward Dog position. Exhale.
5. Inhale as you move into an Upward Dog.
6. Step your right leg forward into a lunge.
7. Exhale while you bend forward at the waist and step your left leg forward, knees bent slightly, so that your head is hanging towards the ground.
8. Bend your knees slightly and straighten your body up as you inhale. Repeat, but begin stepping back with the left leg.
Repeating this routine 2-3 times in the morning and evening will have a profound effect on your posture, relaxation and feeling of well-being. Keep at the Sun Salutation without rushing it. Most skinny people are high-strung and need to learn to slow down and concentrate. The Sun Salutation can teach you a bit of patience. Its nothing mystical, just a well thought out exercise.
Crunches are pretty simple. Just remember to keep the small of your back pressed into the mat and exhale as you come up. Finger tips rest on the back of your head. Do not yank your head forward.
Once these movements are mastered to the point where you can do the sun salutation 6 times in a row and make contact with your heels during the Downward Dog, then you are well on your way to more advanced movements.
One the nutrition side of the house, cut out the starches and sugars. Many skinny people (like my former self) like to binge on starches and sugars. Keep up the water and protein and fresh foods. I used to follow the Priority Eating strategy: Water, then protein (beef, chicken, fish, eggs), then vegetables, then fruits, then grains, then whatever. The trick to eating like this is to PLAN AHEAD. Either pack your meals, stock your refrigerator or know ahead of time where you are going to eat out. Do not set yourself up for failure.