Caring for your Tummy Muscles to Create a Flat Stomach

Over the years the most burning question on people’s lips when talking about physical fitness, has always been “how can I get a flat stomach?” Often people are filled with assumptions and myths about this topic, like “you either have a flat stomach or not”, or “if you have had a baby it’s impossible to get your flat tummy back” or “doing sit ups will create a flat stomach”. This blog piece will give you some information and simple tips so you can start caring for your tummy muscles to create a flat stomach.

Firstly, the muscles that we are talking about are the abdominal muscles, although many refer to them as stomach muscles. The stomach is an organ and aside from filling it modestly with nutritious foods, you really do not want to work that stomach in any other way. The abdominal muscles cover the front of the body and most importantly they allow you to bend the trunk and they work in synergy with the back muscles in order to protect your lower spine.
Many people these days have sedentary jobs, which means that they sit for hours a day. As a result many suffer lower back problems and pain due to lack of activity and weak abdominal muscles. Whilst sitting at a desk there is no need for you to contract or control your abdominal muscles in any way and often people slouch in their chairs exacerbating the problem. People in professions who stand for long periods of time, or need to lift, or mums who carry their children are all at risk of lower back problems and postural injuries. The body wasn’t meant to sit/stand in the same position for long periods of time. Add to that mounting stress that many people experience, all contributing to tense muscles and tired bodies. It is essential to have a postural awareness and work postural muscles especially the abdominal/tummy muscles in order to prevent injury.

flat tummy

Often people have told me that they do a few sit ups a day or they tell me excitedly that they manage to do 100 sit ups in one go. The sit up is a difficult exercise to get right technique wise, but quite aside from that there is no point in doing excessive sit ups if your posture is poor. So to begin with (and you can do this almost immediately), you need to build some postural awareness.

  • Try and remind yourself as often as at all possible to lengthen your spine from the top of your head. You will feel that in doing this you will gently tighten your abdominal muscles. Practice as often as possible “standing or sitting tall”.
  • Whenever you have to take a walk anywhere, like to the bathroom or in a shopping street or at a train station, or whenever you remember, actively pull in your tummy muscles. This will feel as if you are trying to do up trousers that are too tight. You pull your belly button to the spine and then hold for a few seconds. Don’t let it completely relax afterwards, always hold a tension in those muscles as they are meant to protect the lower back. Simultaneously (ladies) you can contract your pelvic floor muscles.
  • Put a small cushion in the small of your back if you are sitting at a desk or in the car. This reminds you keep your posture tall. If you are not used to sitting correctly then it may seem in the beginning that slouching is more comfortable until you get used to sitting upright.
  • Get moving in any way possible. Some movement is better than no movement as the body was meant to be active. So get up of your desk, walk around or better still take up a sport or exercise.

Caring for your tummy muscles to create a flat stomach takes time and patience. It isn’t something you can do occasionally, but something you need to exercise every day and all day. It doesn’t require exercise equipment or a gym, but mindfulness and awareness. Place reminders all over the place until it becomes second nature, or tell a friend to point it out if you have bad posture.

I will go into abdominal exercises in a further post, but as aforementioned they will have little effect until you have a real awareness of your posture and corrected any issues with it.

If you –like me- just had a baby, then take it easy to start with. It has taken 9 months for your body to change completely, so do not expect thing to ping back into place overnight. In fact by pushing and by being impatient you could do more harm than good. When your body indicates that it’s ready then follow the above mentioned tips to re-address your posture and find your core stability again. Be patient, but take care of yourself when lifting your baby and when you are feeding or carrying the baby. Those are all good opportunities to pull those muscles in to protect the lower back, whilst waking up those tummy muscles.

Good luck. More abdominal tips to come!

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