Learn how to sculpt your core with these expert insights. Katelyn Swallow writes.

How to sculpt your core

 

The vision

Fat loss is key to what the majority of women want in a stomach: one that is ‘flat’ or lean, with a little definition and no love handles.

“The most common complaints I receive are from new mums who have a flabby stomach or saggy skin after giving birth, or from individuals who have gained weight and now have a ‘pot belly’,” says director of Soul Centre Yoga & Pilates Studio Libby Wever (soulcentre.com.au)

“Beyond aesthetics, core conditioning also improves posture, which contributes to a trimmer appearance, and improves flexibility and balance. Moreover, developing core muscle strength can boost the effectiveness of workouts and reduce the risk of injuries that sideline our efforts to stay in shape. It also protects your back, which is very important to maintain.”

Key features

Your core is actually a highly complex set of muscles, encompassing the pelvic floor muscles, transversus abdominis, multifidus, internal and external obliques, and the rectus abdominis. Minor core muscles include the latissimus dorsi, gluteus maximus and trapezius.

“The transverse abdominal muscles, which wrap from the sides of the lower back around to the front, are well-coordinated core muscles that stabilise the spine and help create a firm base of support for virtually all movement,” says Wever.

The plan

From an aesthetic point of view, there is little point smashing out the crunches if your obliques are hidden by layers of fat. That said, like any muscle, the abs still need to be worked for proper function and image once the fat does come off.

“Exercises that strengthen abdominal and other core muscles should be part of an overall fitness plan that includes regular moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking 30 minutes per day, most days of the week. Strength training two to three times a week designed to work the core (think Pilates and compound lifts) will also help,” says Wever.

Given the abs are notoriously resistant to fatigue and contain predominantly of slow-twitch (endurance) muscle fibres, they usually respond best to higher volume training. Think upward of 12 reps, for multiple sets.

“Performing basic movements such as sit-ups, crunches, leg lifts, squats and lunges – 12 reps by three sets – as well as holding a full-body plank for two minutes will help to engage and strengthen the core, aiding in your performance across other sports and activities, such as running or swimming,” adds Wever.