A firm, toned, flat stomach is the hallmark of a great figure. Every woman wants one. But the vast majority of women – even those who eat right and exercise regularly – are unhappy about the way their midsection looks. Read on, and I'll reveal the best way to trim your waist and flatten your stomach.

First, let me explain what muscle tone is. When most people talk about muscle tone, they mean a firmer, more defined appearance. A more toned body is simply one with less fat and more muscle tone. You might have great muscle tone, but if you're carrying too much fat around your stomach then nobody is going to be able to see it. So the first step to a flatter stomach is to get rid of the subcutaneous ("under the skin") fat stored over the muscles. This will require an integrated programme of good nutrition and regular exercise.

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Resistance is key

For best results, you'll also need to do some kind of resistance work (i.e. weight training, bodyweight exercises, or exercises that use bands). Why is resistance exercise so important? Muscle is a more "active" tissue than fat, and people with more muscle tend to have a higher metabolic rate. This means they burn more calories and more fat - even when they're not exercising.

But burning off the fat is only half the story. To flatten your stomach, you also need to work your ab muscles 2-3 times per week. And I don't mean hundreds and hundreds of crunches. Rather, you need a complete core workout that will put you on the fast track to a flat, toned midsection.

The workout

This is a highly effective core conditioning workout that I use with my clients. It's hard work, and you will feel it the next day, but it's one of the most effective ways to flatten your stomach - don't give up!

Braced loaded crunch (2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions) Lying on your back while holding a dumbbell across your upper chest (or at arms length above your body), curl yourself up. Select a load that will allow you to do 8-12 reps in good form. Hold the contraction for 2-3 seconds at the top of each repetition. Lower to the start position and repeat.
Although some trainers tell you to pull in your abs during a crunch, this actually makes the exercise less effective. Professor Stuart McGill, an expert in spine function and injury prevention at the University of Waterloo in Canada, recommends the abdominal brace. "This involves tightening the abdominal muscles as if you're about to take a punch in the gut." says McGill. "When the brace is performed correctly, the abdominals are neither hollowed in nor pushed out." Curl up against the brace, and then breathe deeply in the "up" curl-up position while maintaining the brace. Remain in the up position long enough to take a few deep breaths.
Reverse swiss ball crunch (2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions) The reverse swiss ball crunch (RSBC) is a great exercise for the abs. Doing the reverse curl on a swiss ball rather than the floor allows for a full range of motion. Other core muscles are also working hard to keep you stable on the ball. To perform the RSBC, hold on to a fixed immovable object. Bend the knees and keep them bent throughout the movement. To initiate the exercise, roll your hips towards your head until your abdominal muscles are fully contracted. Return to the start position and repeat.
Side plank (Hold for 20 to 60 seconds, lower and repeat on the other side. Perform 2-3 sets) The muscles on the side of your torso - your obliques - are important for core stability and are targeted with the side plank exercise. The beginner level of this exercise involves bridging the torso between the elbow and the knees. Once you’ve mastered the basic move, the challenge is increased by bridging using the elbow and the feet. Make your muscles work even harder by placing the upper leg and foot in front of the lower leg and foot.

Add Maxitone nutrition for the best results

When you combine cardio and weight training with a well balanced diet and nutrition plan you get even faster results, and adding it with the Maxitone range will ensure you achieve your goals quickly. So whether your goal is Weight Loss, Body Toning, or general well being, there is a product and range to suit your needs. Also, remember to keep an eye out for and take advantage of the special offers as there may be a great saving to be had too!

Written by Nasima Siddiqui - Personal Trainer and Elite Road Cyclist.

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