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You Asked: How Do I Tone My Lower Abs?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
SparkPeople member BUTTERFLIY recently asked a very common fitness question: "I have a lot of weight under my belly button! How and what can I do to work the lower part of my belly?"

This is a very common complaint for women. We naturally hold a little bit of extra fat on our lower bellies—it's a lot more common (and normal) than you might think. But at the same time, we see so many (albeit unrealistic) images of flat and toned abs on women—and we think there's something wrong with us for not looking the same way. Body image issues aside, there is a two-part answer to this question that might actually surprise you...

First off, there is no such thing as "upper" and "lower" abs. Unfortunately, there are many trainers and fitness instructors that perpetuate the myth of upper and lower abs—maybe because they don't know better themselves, or because they tell clients what they want to hear. Your rectus abdominis (or abs, for short) runs down the front of the torso, from the center of the ribcage to the pubic bone. It is one long sheet of muscle that just happens to look like several small muscles. This is due to a unique feature called "tendinous inscriptions." These inscriptions run across the muscle and down the center, giving it that "6-pack" (but more accurately, 8-pack) appearance.

If the abs is one muscle, then why do certain exercises seem to target different areas? Actually, all abdominal exercises target the entire muscle, but during some exercises, you just happen to feel it in one region of the muscle a little more. That means that all types of abdominal exercises will target the whole abs muscle, no matter where you might feel the exercise. As far as strengthening and toning the abs goes, aim for a variety of exercises. The abs are like any other muscle, so you don't need to do hundreds of repetitions for a good workout—when you do an exercise correctly, you shouldn't be able to do a thousand reps anyway. Rest 1-2 days between each abs workout to give those muscles a chance to repair and strengthen. For effective workout ideas, click here.

Now for the second part to this answer. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as spot training, so all the crunches in the world won't help you lose weight from your lower belly. While the strengthening and toning part (above) is important, it doesn't burn the fat that covers the muscles. Cardio exercise, in combination with a healthy diet, will burn fat from all over the body. So don't leave out this very important step.

The last thing I'll mention is to be realistic. Very, very few women have abdominal definition or a completely flat belly (myself included). A little bit of lower tummy is perfectly normal—it's what gives women that soft, curvy and even voluptuous look. But it's not impossible to tone up your tummy and improve its appearance. With cardio, a healthy diet, and a variety of strengthening exercises, every woman can help tighten and flatten her belly.

Which part of your body is your biggest trouble zone? What are you doing to improve it?

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I found this article very discouraging. This should have been written to encourage not discourage. I have heard of people retaining their prepregnancy shape with hard work and exercise (not surgery). Report
ARGH! I actually thought I could exercise myself to a flat belly! Report
My belly and thighs are my problem area. I have started walking more and watching what I eat. I have gone almost 3 wks with out soda and Mt Dew is an addiction! It's nice to know that there isn't upper and lower abs! Report
My abs and inner thighs are my big problem. I would love to tone them up. Report
Actually... it is kindda depressing to know that regardless of how much hard work I do, how much 'dieting' I do (healthy eating, avoiding junk food) or cardio I do, I still won't have those perfect abs? I don't know that I want to just accept that. How do I know if I AM 1 of those few who do? Do all the work? Almost doesn't seem worth it... uh. Now I'm depressed... :( Report
I really would like a six-pack someday, but I recognize that the amount of work and diligence that goes into achieving that for a woman is VERY difficult. It requires a very low body fat percentage that is not exactly within the healthy range for the average person. Jillian Michaels was very honest in her book when she said she doesn't look ripped all of the time--she in fact has to go through a pretty intense week or two of shedding water weight to achieve that "toned" look. She straight up stated that no one can look that way all of the time. Report
my stomach will always be my problem area. dang apple shape makes all of my extra fat hang out there. I've been doing lots of exercise to try to flatten and tone because I want a smaller tummy! =) Report
Agreed- I never knew abs were one long muscle, I thought they were an interconnected web of several muscles.
Oh my darn hips drive me nutty. It's definitely the last place I lose, but I am starting to see small changes. And I'm not sure there's a specific thing I can do for them in particular other than just keep losing. Report
My abs too but I am losing weight and hopefully some fat will leave that are. Report
my shoulder,arms and chest!! Report
My ads are the ONLY problem that I have I try to do cardio and set up Im trying to eat right as my done ladies till me I have to eat clean so Im try that and hope I loss the muffin top and the baby pouch. Report
My belly and that very low part. I did not realize I would have this flab beneath my c-section scar as I became overweight and became older. Report
My abs. I can't seem to lose that belly fat from the stomach stretching when I was pregnant with my 2 kids. Report
My abs are a big problem for me. I was 103 Lbs. at 34 years old, when I got pregnant for the first time with twins. I gained about 50 Lbs and have a real problem tightening those ab muscles. My arms and legs are still skinny and I feel like an olive on toothpicks.
My abs and my breast, I to am well endowed!!! This article is very helpful, because I did not realize the abs was one long muscle.

I am sure that nonprocessed food is healthier for us, but when on a very fixed income, cannot afford it, especially with todays economy! Report
There's no upper or lower abs but it seems like women deposit more fat on the lower abdomenal region. For years I had theat "pouch" on my lower belly even when I was thin all over. Every body builder or fitness competitor will tell you that getting ab muscles to show is more about diet. You have to do cardio to reduce overall body fat, eat very clean unprocesssed foods.
For me, the pouch finally disappeared when I reduced sodium from my diet and cut out almost all processed foods, even whole wheat bread. I believe that preservatives, chemicals and sodium hold water under the skin between the muscles and make it appear like belly fat when it really isn't. I am still working on more definition, but now my stomach is completely flat 95% of the time (unless I eat extra sodium) and I have a 4-pack. I am in my mid 40's, and I never had a flat stomach even in my 20's.
It's not just cardio, ladies, pay attention to what you eat, cut sodium and processed foods, and there will be an improvement. Report
this is a great article! just yesterday i went to a 15 minute hardcore abs class, and my trainer said ok now do this to work your lower abs! i can see definition in my upper abs region but not towards the bottom. so i liked reading how theres nothing you can really do about it.

my most troublesome parts is my thighs, and i hate it when i wear tank tops and my fat pokes through sides! ugh! lol but i can see that its shrinking so thats good! theres nothing in particular i do to work out these regions. i just do my regular workouts and try not to focus on any particular region because fat is going to come off where it wants to. Report
Definitely my stomach....I'm toning up and slimming down everywhere else but then my stomach looks like jabba. It's so disgusting. I can't even buy a decent dress because my stomach always sticks out in weird areas. Ughhhhh! Report
I do cardio 4-5 times a week (so far I've lost more inches from my breasts and legs than my stomach but the stomach is slowly catching up) and I do a variety of strength exercises targeting every muscle including abs. And I'm on a low fat "lifestyle change." I wish there was a way of making the inches come of my stomach faster lol, even though I'm fully aware there isn't. Report
I'm like so many women and wish desperately that my stomach was flatter. It is one of the fond memories of my younger days. Report "lower" ab area is a problem area for me. I have the baby pouch from my pregnancy. Also my butt. I have a big one and it gets hard when getting jeans! I have to make sure they are high rise because the new jeans that fit right on your butt crack are embarrassing! I can't fit into those properly! Report
In reality, the part of my body that gives me the most angst is my bust. I am very heavy busted and no matter how thin I am, I still have large breasts. I would love to reduce them--surgery is not an option although I would probably qualify. I think if I truly knew how to dress so that I would look good, it might help. In today's fashion environment of exposing so much, I feel embarassed by my size. I have to be careful, but v-necks plunge too low for me, but I like my neck and upper chest exposed because I love jewelry against my skin....... I love button shirts, but avoid them because they are generally not fitted, or if they fit my lower chest and waist, they are too tight for my bustline. I know that when I am in my good weight range, I loose a little in my bustline-but never enough. I am blessed or not blessed with my grandmothers good German lines. LOL
I agree with Niki778. I figured I had to focus on 3 different ab groups... didn't know if was only one muscle. I'm trying to eat clean, lots of water, stay in my calorie range, right now I'm not back into weights YET, but I do about 45 minutes to an hour of brisk walking per day. I have to say, while I'm still minimum 20 lbs away from a healthy weight, I've already noticed a pretty big difference! Report
this is a big problem area for me Report
My abs and my upper thighs are the two worst parts on my body. I gained weight rapidly in my early 20s though due to medication and compounded by poor habits. It is going to take quite a bit of work to get that area completely gone. Report
my abs for sure, after having two kids I carry weight in my the lower portion of my abs, I focus on lots of cardio to try and burn fat, along with trying my best to eat properly. The only suprise to me in this article was the fact that the abs is one long muscle. I did not know that and thought there were upper and lower abs. I find that to be very intersting. Report