Ways To Lose That Baby Belly
I've never exercised regularly, but have always had a flat stomach. However, after the birth of my second child I now have a "pooch" on my lower stomach. Situps and crunches have not made much of a difference. I'm now expecting my third child... am I doomed to just having a flabby belly forever? - Lisa B.
The expert answers
My first thought is that you may have some separation of the long muscle that runs down the length of your abdomen. That condition is called "diastasis recti," and is very common after pregnancy.
To check for separation, lie on your back, knees bent, feet flat on the floor. Lift your head and shoulder blades off the floor like you're doing a crunch. Holding that position (abdominals contracted), take one hand on your belly right below your belly button. Press down slightly on your belly with your index and middle fingers. Now, move your fingers side to side - you should feel hard muscle on either side of a soft space in the middle. If you can move your fingers more than two fingers' width side to side, then you have a separation, and need to do some special ab exercises.
If you do have some separation, here are some exercises you can do to help it heal:
1. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Place your hands on your abdomen with your fingertips pointing down toward your pubic bone. Exhale as you slowly lift your head (and shoulders, if you can) while pressing down and in with your fingers - that will urge the rectus back together.
2. Take a long towel and wrap it around your torso with the ends in front. As you perform a crunch, pull the ends of the towel towards each other in front of your belly button, which will also urge the muscle back together.
3. Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor. As you exhale, slowly extend one leg along the floor, feeling your abdomen contract below your belly button. Inhale as you return to the starting position. Repeat with the other leg.
If you do NOT have separation, it could be a diet issue. Try reducing the amount of fats and sugars you eat and increasing the number of fresh fruits and veggies. Also, drink AT LEAST eight glasses of water throughout each day to improve digestion and keep your system flowing smoothly.
You mention that you're doing crunches, but are you hitting all areas of the abdominal muscles? You should continue with traditional crunches, of course, but also add some exercises for the lower portion of the abs like reverse curls. You should also do exercises for the muscles that wrap around your waistline, like diagonal curls. Please let me know if you need descriptions of these exercises.