“Muffin top” is a deceptively adorable name for a fiendishly difficult area of the body to tone: the lower abdominal muscles. In fact, most of us are genetically predisposed to showing weight gain in our belly first, based on a combination of hormones and how the body tends to naturally store fat. To approach the belly pouch head-on, the Cut worked with Pure Barre instructor Sarah Wingo, who demonstrated five different moves that isolate the lower abdominal muscles to make them stronger and more defined. As with any workout, diet is key, but these moves will complement any healthy-eating plan to make way for a tighter stomach.
Move 1: For these first three moves, it’s important to maintain a flat back on the floor. If your back is arched, you could strain it, and you won’t engage your lower abdomen as much. For this “scissor” exercise, start with your back on the floor and your arms down at your sides. With straight legs pointed toward the ceiling, slowly crisscross your legs as you lower to a 30-degree angle. Once you hit the 30-degree mark, scissor your legs back up so they are once again in your starting position. Repeat this four times.
Move 2: Here’s a micro “thrust” that will really target your lower belly. Resume the starting position from the first move, with a flat back against the floor, arms at your sides, and straight legs pointed toward the ceiling. Lift your tailbone in quick, short bursts for 30 seconds. Rest for 15 seconds, and repeat this three more times.
Move 3: Adjust your starting position from the first two moves slightly, and bend your legs to a 90-degree angle. Alternate touching your right and left toes to the floor for 30 seconds. After you’ve finished alternating legs, touch both toes to the ground together for another 30 seconds. Repeat this two more times.
Move 4: This next move is a modified take on the yogi bridge pose. With a flat back on the floor, bend your knees hip-width apart. Extend your right leg straight into the air, pointed toward the ceiling. Squeezing your lower stomach area, lift your butt, hips, and lower back a few inches off the ground, and then lower everything back to the ground. Continue this motion for 30 seconds before switching to the left leg. Repeat three more times.
Move 5: It may take a few tries to perfect this final move. Starting with a flat back on the ground, with legs pointed straight and arms extended over the head, slowly lift the legs and arms toward the ceiling. It’s important to do this slowly to really engage your abdominal muscles. Lower to the ground, and repeat this twice more.