Soft and Flabby or Hard Round Belly


I'm a 44 year old mother of one (he's 18 months old). I am 5'8" tall and weigh 168 pounds. I would like to lose about 30 pounds to achieve what I consider a good weight for me and I would also like to work on overall toning.

Sadly, a large portion of my extra weight is in my stomach, resulting in a rather large (and embarrassing!) potbelly.

Even when not overweight, I tend to have a bit of a belly too. I'm really not sure what's the deal to be honest and I'd like to nip it in the bud. 

My question is this: I've been reading online and in various magazines that doing exercises to strengthen your abdominal muscles can help with a potbelly (in addition to losing the weight, of course).

But I've also heard that if you do things like sit-ups while you have a large belly, that instead of having a soft, flabby belly, you'll actually end up with a hard, round belly, and that it still won't become flat.

So is it better to lose the weight first, and then start doing the toning exercises, or should I just do them right from the start? I don't think I'll ever have a flat stomach. I never really have but I sure would like to get it a lot closer to flat than it is now.

Answered By:

Mike Behnken, MS, CSCS ANswers the Fitness Question

Qualifications of Mike Behnken

If you are 38 pounds overweight, abdominal exercises should be secondary to cardio exercise and a healthy diet.

In order to lose fat and have any chance of a flat belly, you must perform cardio exercise at least 3-5 times per week. I'd shoot for between 30 and 45 minutes. This combination will increase the chances of a caloric deficit which will in turn enable you to lose weight.

It is 100x better for your goals if you spend an extra 15-30 minutes doing cardio rather than doing ab exercises. With abdominal exercises you won't be able to see results under the layer of subcutaneous fat and they may even make your belly bigger as the increased muscle mass will actually push the covering fat layer out further.

Soft and Flabby or Hard Round Belly

Some people may develop what looks like a hard round belly due to poor hip posture. As far as abdominal exercises go, it is most important that you perform them with correct form in order to prevent injury.

If your posture is out of whack, which is the case in most people, it must be corrected before you get the flat belly you want, as (image) tight hip flexors can cause your lower stomach to protrude by pulling your pelvis anteriorly.

Click Here to Learn All About How Muscle Imbalances Impact Your Posture

The best exercises to tighten up the deep belly muscles are core exercises. Core exercises can tighten the waist, reducing the circumference of the belly (if done properly). NOTE:  This is not saying these exercises burn fat, but instead simply imply that they will tighten up loose muscles which can be caused by pregnancy or bad posture.

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