While subcutaneous fat lies just under the skin, abdominal fat rests deeper in your body, surrounding your organs. This fat is known as visceral fat. A healthy amount of visceral fat is necessary for cushioning and insulation, but excess fat has been shown to cause health issues. Abdominal fat cells are actually bioactive, capable of encouraging the production of harmful compounds and substances that can increase risk of type 2 diabetes, dementia and certain cancers. Visceral fat also produces chemicals called cytokines that may increase your chances of cardiovascular disease.
Here are five exercises that specifically target belly fat.
Unlike a normal plank, the side plank forces you to work your core harder to maintain balance and stability. Start by lying on right your side with your legs stacked and your elbow directly under your shoulder. Place your loose left hand either on your hip or on your opposite shoulder.
From there, simply lift your hips until you’re balancing only on your feet and your right forearm. Your body should be completely straight, forming a diagonal line to the floor. Hold the plank for 30 seconds or as long as possible, resting and repeating until you have held for a total of 30 seconds. Switch to your left side and repeat.
Start on your hands and knees with your toes tucked under. Contract your abs and balance on your toes such that your knees are hovering above the ground by about two inches. This extra movement forces your abs and core to work even harder than with normal donkey kicks.
Flexing your abs, bring your left leg up so your knee almost touches your nose then kick it straight back, keeping your core tight and contracted. Repeat this movement—bringing your knee to your nose and then kicking it back—up to 8 times. Switch to the other leg.
While many associate squats more with exercising the legs, using your own bodyweight while performing squats can effectively help you tighten your core. Standing with your feet about hip-width apart, hands crossed over your chest, bend your knees pressing your weight into your feet. Your feet and knees should be pointed straight ahead. Try to keep your knees behind or just over your toes to avoid knee joint injuries. Squat down as far as you comfortably can and then return to a standing position. Perform five sets of five reps each.
Cross-body mountain climbers
Start in a plank or pushup position, all of your weight supported by your toes and hands. Keeping your back straight, pick up your left foot to bring your left knee to your right elbow. Return it to its original position. Pick up your right foot and bring your right knee to your left elbow. Return to its original position. Continue alternating sides for up to 30 seconds or as many as you can do.
Burpees are a full body exercise that can burn calories, get your heart beating and make your core work hard. It mixes several different exercises into one. Start at a standing position. Squat down, placing your hands on the floor in front of you. Kick both of your feet back so that you’re not in a pushup position. Drop your chest to the floor. Push back up and kick your feet forward so you’re back in a squatting position. End by jumping up into the air as high as you can. Repeat up to 10 times.
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