Don't fall for the gimmicks on TV or online that promise to be the next best "abs-cruncher" machine or the secret to a sexy stomach. In my job as a strength and conditioning coach, I work with everyone from Jennifer Lopez to Minka Kelly to help them get the core they desire, and this is what I know: It doesn't matter how many crunches or classes you do—what you eat, literally, defines whether or not you have flat abs. (Check out the best and worst foods for flat abs.)
That said, there are some tricks that can help you blast belly pudge and score that sleek stomach you've been dreaming about. Be sure you’re doing the following five must-dos.
1. Think big. It takes approximately 250,000 crunches to burn just one pound of fat. So get up off the floor and focus on training your larger muscles, such as your hamstring, glutes, and quadriceps. Not only do they require a lot of energy to move, but working them will cause high levels of caloric expenditure post-workout.
2. Explode. Science has shown that performing abs exercises at a fast tempo activates more muscles than doing them slowly because when you speed up your movement, your muscles have to generate higher amounts of force. Try it with a medicine ball slam (or use a pillow at home): Stand with feet wider than shoulder width and knees slightly bent. Grab the ball with both hands and raise it overhead. Quickly lower hips to the floor until knees form a 90-degree angle, simultaneously swinging arms down in front of your body and slamming the ball into the floor like an ax chop.
3. Find your balance. Standing on one leg creates instability that works the deep core muscles. When you're at the gym, try performing upper-body exercises, such as biceps curls and bent-over rows, as well as lower-body moves such as deadlifts and squats one one leg.
4. Exercise all day. A simple way to shrink your belly is to strengthen your transversus abdominis (the muscles that lie beneath your more-visible "six-pack" abs), which flattens your waistline when you suck in your gut. All you have to do is pull your belly button in toward your spine and hold for 10 seconds while breathing normally; repeat five times. You can do this anywhere—in the car, during meetings, watching TV, waiting in line even while doing chores—so do it as many times as you can remember throughout the day.
5. Follow a smart scale schedule. You are six times less likely to be overweight if you step on a scale just once a week. The best times to check are Fridays and Monday mornings because most weight is gained on the weekends. By getting on the scale at these times, you'll be less likely to go off of your healthy eating habits or, at the very least, go off the deep end.