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If you do abdominal exercises (including sit-ups) correctly, they will help you lose belly fat. Emphasizing alignment, suppleness, core strength and smoothness of movement increases the benefits.
One of the reasons for the recent popularity of the Pilates Method is the effectiveness of its abdominal exercises. Pilates emphasizes proper form.
A key hint is to 'think long' through your body as you are doing sit-ups (and for that matter, any exercise). This means to consciously imagine your whole body lengthening, rather than tightening and compressing, as you move.
Imagine that the top of your head is lengthening out of your shoulders and neck, and your ribcage is lifting away from your pelvis. Below, I show how to lengthen in preparation to doing a Pilates-style sit-up.
Think long all the way from the top of your head through the bottom of your heels. This is a wonderful stretch in its own right. Done well, it feels really good.
Photo below: This is the most challenging part of the exercise for maintaining body length and a flat belly.
Once you are most of the way up, it becomes easier to allow the abdominals to fall back toward the spine gracefully.
There are various ways you can achieve gracefully toned, properly functioning abdominals. Exercises like the one below tone the obliques as well as the rectus.
This one is done on a diagonal, with the weight of the medicine ball assisting in balancing the weight of the legs, first to one side then bringing the legs and arms up, centered over the belly before going to the opposite side. So the exercise takes the form of an 'X.' Here is the most important thing you need to know: when doing abdominal exercise, keep your outermost belly muscles gently pulled back toward your spine.
Try not to do this in a rigid way. Rather, use the minimum muscle contraction to achieve it.
As you do the exercise, imagine that your torso is actually lengthening. That way, your rectus abdominis, obliques, transverse muscles and the deepest abdominal muscle - the psoas (which is actually a hip flexor), are all working together.
When you see people at the gym efforting to lift too much weight, and losing their good form, they are tightening, compressing, and contorting their bodies. They are shortening their bodies. A more compressed body will not carry weight as gracefully as a lengthened one. As well, paying attention to good form will help you avoid muscle strains and other injuries.
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