How to Get a Flatter Stomach

Three Methods:Preparing Your Exercise RoutineEating for a Flat StomachToning and Strengthening your Abdominal Muscles

Have you been dreaming of a flat stomach but don’t know where to begin? You may think doing tons of crunches is the answer, but the key to a flat stomach is a healthy diet and a regular exercise routine. There is no quick fix, but you can get a flat stomach with consistency and dedication.

Method 1
Preparing Your Exercise Routine

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    Understand how exercise can flatten your stomach. Many people think that abdominal exercises alone will give them a flat stomach. If you have belly fat, you will not be able to see your abdominal muscles and your stomach may look rounder. While abdominal exercises can strengthen and tone your abdominal muscles, you must do aerobic exercise and strength training to reduce overall body fat and the fat in your abdomen.[1]
    • There is no such thing as spot training. You must do exercises that decrease overall body fat to get rid of belly fat.
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    Engage in regular aerobic activity. Aerobic exercise includes activities that engage large muscle groups for an extended period of time. You should do at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week.[2] Aerobic exercise helps reduce overall body and belly fat so that you can have a flat stomach.
    • Activity can be broken up throughout the day. Make sure you are exercising for at least 10 minutes each time.
    • Examples of moderate-intensity exercise are brisk walking (3 mph or faster), water aerobics, bicycling (slower than 10 mph), and ballroom dancing.[3]
    • Examples of vigorous-intensity exercise are jogging, running, swimming laps, jump roping, bicycling (10 mph or faster), and hiking uphill. [4]
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    Try strength training. Strength training should be done at least twice a week and target all of the major muscle groups such as your legs, hips, back, shoulders, abdomen, and arms. Weight training, using resistance bands, and body weight exercises (e.g. push ups, squats, pull ups) can all be done to strengthen your muscles.[5]
    • A strength training session should include 8 to 10 exercises that target your major muscle groups. Rest at least one day between your strength training sessions.[6]
    • If you are a beginner, do 1-3 sets of each exercise and 8 to 12 repetitions in each set.
    • If you are more advanced, do 2-6 sets of each exercise and 1 to 8 repetitions in each set.[7]
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    Develop an exercise routine. Having an exercise plan will keep you on track and help you set goals. Your routine should include both aerobic exercise and strength training. If you are just starting out, you may need to build up to 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week.[8]
    • Do activities that you enjoy. You are more likely to stick to a plan if you like what you are doing. If you do not like running, try exercise classes, biking, or hiking with a friend.
    • Switch up which exercises you do each day. Becoming bored with the exercises you do leads to a lack of motivation. Instead of running or walking all the time, try other activities like dancing or swimming.
    • Create an exercise playlist of songs that will pump you up and keep you motivated throughout your workout.
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    Keep an exercise log. Tracking your progress can help you make adjustments to your routine and helps you know if what you are doing is working. Write down the exercise that you complete each day. You may also want to take before and after picture so you can see how your body is changing. Exercise consistently for 4 to 6 weeks and then check your progress.
    • If you have not seen any changes once you have started your routine, you may need to make adjustments to your program such as increasing the amount of time you are exercising, doing more high intensity exercise, or trying different exercise.

Method 2
Eating for a Flat Stomach

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    Watch your caloric intake. When we consume more calories than we burn each day, those extra calories are stored within our bodies. The amount of calories you need varies by your age, height, gender, and how active you are. Most women need between 1600 and 2400 calories per day. Most men need between 2,000 and 3,000 calories per day.[9]
    • If you are trying to lose weight, you will need to eat fewer calories.
    • The older you get, the fewer calories you need to consume.
    • If you are extremely active, you will need to eat more calories every day.
    • There are calorie counters available on the web that can help you determine how many calories you should eat per day.[10]
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    Eat more vegetables and fruits. Fruits and vegetables provide necessary nutrients for your body and are low in calories.[11] A diet heavy in fruits and vegetables can help you feel full and keep you from storing extra calories as fat. Eat a variety of vegetables that includes dark green vegetables (broccoli, spinach, lettuce), red and orange vegetables (carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, sweet potatoes), beans and peas (black beans, split peas, kidney beans), starchy vegetables (corn,green peas, white potatoes). Women should eat 2-2.5 cups per day, and men should eat 2.5-3 cups per day.[12]
    • If you participate in 30 minutes or more of moderate-intensity exercise per day, you need to consume more vegetables.
    • Fresh and frozen vegetables are preferable to canned vegetables. If you buy canned vegetables, make sure the label says "low sodium" or "no salt added".
    • Keep fresh cut vegetables such as carrots, broccoli, cucumbers, or green, yellow, or red peppers in a container in your refrigerator. You are more likely to choose them for a snack if you see them when you open your refrigerator.[13]
    • Try adding pureed vegetables to your soups, casseroles, and gravies to increase your vegetable intake.
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    Eat lean protein. Protein is found in meat, poultry, seafood, beans and peas,and dairy products. Some animal sources of protein can be high in fat. It's important that you eat lean sources of protein such as lean cuts of beef, beans, pork tenderloin, eggs, seafood, and skinless white meat poultry.[14] Women should eat 5-5.5 ounces of protein per day, and men should eat 5.5-6 ounces of meat per day.[15]
    • If you do not eat meat, poultry, or fish, 1/4 cup cooked beans, 1 egg, 1 tablespoon of peanut butter, or 1/2 ounce of nuts or seeds is equivalent to 1 ounce of meat.[16]
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    Switch to whole grains. Eating whole grain foods (brown rice, oatmeal, whole-wheat flour, and whole-wheat pasta) instead of refined grains (white rice, white flower, white bread) will help your body get rid of belly fat.[17] Women should eat 5 - 6 ounces of grains per day, and men should aim for 6 - 8 ounces of gains per day.[18]
    • One ounce of grains is equivalent to 1 slice of bread, 1" mini bagel, 1/2 a muffin, and 1/2 cup of cooked oatmeal.[19]
    • At least half of the grains you eat should be whole grains.[20]
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    Cook your own food. Cooking at home can help you control what you eat and know exactly what you are putting in your body. Be aware of how much butter, margarine, and table sugar you use when preparing food. Also, trim the fat and remove the skin from meats before you cook them.[21]
    • Grilling, broiling, and roasting are cooking methods that do not add extra fat to foods.
    • Use vegetable oils such as olive oil, canola oil, corn oil, or safflower oil instead of butter, shortening, and lard when cooking.
    • If you eat at a restaurant, share your meal with a friend or take half of your meal home.
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    Pay attention to foods that cause bloating. Certain foods can cause bloating and will make your stomach appear rounder. You do not have to eliminate these foods from your diet, but be aware of how your body responds when you eat these foods. Common foods that cause bloating are beans, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, carbonated drinks, cauliflower, milk, onions, some fruits (apples, peaches, and pears), hard candy, and chewing gum.[22]
    • Reduce the amount of salt you consume. Eating too much salt can cause the body to retain water around the stomach, making you feel bloated.[23]
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    Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar increases your belly fat. Many processed foods (e.g. cakes, candy, etc.) and sugary drinks ( sodas, sports drinks, and fruit juices) have high sugar content. Taking some of the sugar out of your diet will help get a flatter stomach.[24]
    • Instead of drinking juice, eat the actual fruit instead (e.g. eat an orange instead of drinking orange juice)
    • Replace sugary drinks with water.
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    Eat more fiber. Eating soluble fiber helps reduce belly fat.[25] Fruits, vegetables, and beans are good sources of soluble fiber. Women should eat 21 to 25 grams of fiber per day, and men should eat 30 to 38 grams of fiber per day.[26] Examples of high fiber foods include oats, carrots, apples, citrus fruits, cauliflower, and green beans.[27]
    • Make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Water helps the fiber go through your digestive system.

Method 3
Toning and Strengthening your Abdominal Muscles

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    Try a plank exercise. A plank exercise will target your back and core muscles. Start by lying on your stomach and then prop yourself up using your forearms and your toes. Your elbow should be at a 90 degree angle. Straighten your legs and keep your abs tight. Hold for at least 5 to 10 seconds and repeat 8 to 10 times. Increase the amount of time you hold the position as your abs get stronger.[28]
    • Keep your back straight and look at the floor.
    • If this is too difficult for you, keep your knees on the floor.
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    Try a plank row. This modification of the traditional plank targets your lower abdominal muscles that are often a trouble spot. Get into the plank position and put a glider under each of your feet. If you do not have a glider, you can use a paper plate, paper towel, or a small hand towel. Now slide your legs back while maintaining the plank position. Your arms will move from a 90 degree to about a 135 degree angle. Then slide your legs back to your starting position. This position is very challenging. Try to complete 10 to 15 repetitions.[29]
    • Focus on good form instead of a lot of repetitions.
    • You can build up to doing 10 to 15 repetitions.
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    Try a stomach crunch. Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Your knees should be hip width apart. Put your hands on your thighs, behind your ears, or across your chest. Tighten your abs as you raise your head and shoulders off the floor. Hold for a few seconds and then slowly go back to your starting position.[30].
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    Do a standing oblique crunch. Standing ab exercises are helpful if being on the floor is uncomfortable for you. Stand with your feet a slightly wider than hip-width. Put your weight on your right leg, and then extend your left arm above your head like you are stretching. Crunch your torso to the left and bring your left elbow and knee together. Do 10 to 15 repetitions and then switch sides.[31]
    • You can hold dumbbell on the same side that you are performing the crunch to make the exercise more challenging.
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    Try a standing crunch. Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width a part with your toes facing forward. Put your hands on your hips, and contract your abs like you are trying to make your belly button touch your spine. Then, rotate your pelvis and stick your butt out while you bring your chest and shoulders forward. Return to the starting position. Repeat this 10 to 15 times and do 2 to 3 sets.[32]
    • Keep your abs tight as you do this.
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    Be mindful of your posture. Don't slouch while walking or sitting. Keep your chin up and your stomach tight. Having good posture engages your muscular system and makes your stomach look flatter. Poor posture causes your abdominal muscles to to weaken. Strong stomach muscles make your stomach look tighter.[33]


  • Be consistent with your exercise and healthy eating. It will take time to get a flat stomach.
  • If an exercise feels like its too much, do not try to push through the pain. Each person has his or her own limits and going beyond those limits can lead to injury.
  • Do not stop eating. If you don't eat your body will not have enough energy to perform the exercises prescribed above.
  • Consult your physician before starting a new exercise routine.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Women’s Health