How to Tighten Core?
The question on how to tighten core muscles is probably one of the most searched exercise questions. Both men and women desire to have a flatter stomach and abs as opposed to a chubby stomach which they may deem to be unflattering.
How to Tighten the Core Area and Flatten the Stomach?
If you have been trying to find answers to “how to tighten my core and flat belly?” The first thing you need to remember is that spot exercising is not a thing. It is a myth and does not work (12). If you desire a flatter stomach and abs, then you need to realize that doing just core exercises is not the answer.
If you have been trying to find answers to “how to tighten my core and flat belly?” The first thing you need to remember is that spot exercising is not a thing. It is a myth and does not work (12). If you desire a flatter stomach and abs, then you need to realize that doing just core exercises not the answer.
Doing endless sit-ups multiple times in a day will not melt away or burn the fat around your stomach or love handles. For the desired flatter tummy and tighter core, you must first fix your diet by reducing the number of calories you eat. If you eat more calories than you burn, then working out, no matter how hard, will not help you (7).
How to Tighten Your Core When Working Out?
A common misconception is that core muscles involve just the abs or the belly. This is not true. Core muscles are made up of multiple muscles that start from your spine to your lower back, pelvis, and glutes (6). All these muscles help us when we stand, bend, and twist from left to right, among other things.
Among all these muscles, which ones should you pay attention to when your trainer yells “tighten your core!” or “engage your abs!”?
Imagine a straitjacket but for your internal organs. This is what the transverse abdominis is. This core muscle extends from your torso to your pelvis, and its primary and only function is to support your abdominal wall, compress your organs, and stabilize your spine.
External and Internal obliques
The external obliques are located on either side of your body, right where your love handles are. The internal obliques lie just under the external obliques. Both muscles enable us to bend sideways and twist our bodies on either side.
Latissimus dorsi a.k.a. ‘Lats’
They are found along both sides of your spine from just below your shoulder blades to your pelvis. They help us twist from side to side and stabilize our backs whenever we extend our shoulders.
While you might not be familiar with its scientific name, this muscle is what makes up the abs and is mostly what most of us covet when looking up core workouts. Other than looking quite fabulous, the rectus abdominis enables us to bend the spine.
Found on each side of your spine, they extend the entire length of your back. Their functions are side to side movement as well as extending and rotating the back.
Now that you recognize the primary core muscles, how do you tighten them as you work out?
The basic thing is that all the muscles from your rib cage to the pelvis should be held tight. First, fill your belly, and then inhale and exhale, only allowing your rib cage to move. Your belly should remain tight and full after the first breath (10).
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The Best “How to Tighten Your Core” Workouts
Crunches are some of the most popular “how to tighten your core area” exercises (8).
- First, lie on your back and place your feet on a wall. Your knees and hips should bend at a 90- degree angle. Tighten your abdominal muscles as described above.
- Place your hands behind your head and raise your head and shoulders off the floor, moving towards your knees. Do not use your hand to help lift your head.
- Hold this position for three deep breaths then drop down and repeat.
- Do this ten times.
To avoid straining your neck or using your hands to push your head up, cross your arms on your chest. Hold for three deep breaths.
- Start by lying flat on a yoga or exercise mat with your back pressed to the ground and head looking straight up to the sky or ceiling.
- Place your hands flat on either side of your torso.
- Then lift your feet off the ground, cross them at the ankles, then bend them at the knees creating a 90-degree angle.
- With a tight core, raise your hips toward your rib cage, make sure that your tailbone lifts off the floor. Use your hands on your side to help keep you stable.
- Finally, hold this position for two seconds then slowly drop your hips back to the floor.
- Repeat this move ten to 15 times, depending on how strong you feel.
- On your hands and knees, come up into a push-up plank position.
- Then, balancing on hands (or elbows) and toes (or knees), align wrists under shoulders. Be sure to keep your back straight and the abs and glutes tight. Do not sag your body to the floor or curl up your spine.
- Tighten your abs, keep breathing, and hold this position for at least ten seconds to a full minute.
For an easier variation to this, balance on your elbows and knees (3). Work with the variation that feels most comfortable to you to avoid injuring yourself.
This is a favorite and is another variation of the original abdominal crunches (7).
- First, lie flat on the workout mat on your back and place your fingertips at the back of your head.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles, bring your knees up to a 45-degree angle, and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
- Then, turn your upper body to the left, bringing the right elbow toward the left knee and extending your right leg. Switch sides and bring the left elbow toward the right knee. This action is where the workout gets its name from.
- Slowly continue this pedaling motion for ten to 15 times.
While this workout does not specifically target the abs, it is a compound exercise that not only targets your glutes but also engages your core when done correctly (2).
- Begin by standing on your right leg with a slight bend on your knee, and holding a dumbbell or kettlebell in your left hand (If you do not have workout equipment, fill up a three-liter bottle of water and use that as your weight).
- Keeping your hips straight, push them back as you extend and lift your left leg behind you.
- Then, keep your back flat as you lower the weight toward the ground as you extend the left leg.
- Once your hand reaches the floor, slowly come back up using your right leg or balance.
- Switch sides and repeat. Do this for ten to 15 repetitions.
Trunk rotations or Russian twists
- Start in a sitting position and lean back slightly with your knees bent and heels touching the floor.
- Engage your core and hold the weight of choice close to your body. It can be a medicine ball, dumbbell, kettlebell, or heavy water bottle.
- Then slowly twist your torso to one side. Pause for two to three seconds before rotating to the opposite side.
- Contract the abs deeply as you twist. Repeat this ten to 15 times (13).
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This is another example of a compound exercise. It works on both your core and glute muscles (8).
- First, lie flat on your back with your knees bent. Do not arch or press your back to the floor, but simply choose a comfortable position.
- Tighten your abdominal muscles and raise your hips until they are aligned with your knees and shoulders. Remember to tighten the glutes.
- Hold up here for three seconds, then slowly drop down to the floor.
- Repeat this ten more times.
Ordinarily, this workout is used to help get a rounder and firmer glute. However, you can use this workout to help you practice how to tighten core muscles while working out (1).
- Begin by standing straight and slightly tucking your pelvis.
- Inhale, then exhale, contracting your abdominal muscles.
- As you inhale again, slowly lower yourself into a squat by bending at the knees and hips, sending your butt out behind you, as if sitting down into a chair. Remember to keep your core engaged.
- You can squat to the floor or as far as your knees allow you. Do not push too far so as not to hurt yourself.
- Exhale as you begin to rise, pushing through your feet and extending through your knees and hips, all the while maintaining the abdominal contraction.
- Start by lying face up with your back pressed into the yoga mat. Your arm should be on the floor on either side of your body.
- Then, lift your legs a few inches off the ground (or at a 45-degrees angle), and engage your abs to ensure that you do not arch your back too much.
- Now, lift your legs one by one in a fluttering motion. Do this for ten to 15 repetitions. If you prefer not to count, set a timer for 30 seconds on your phone and kick for this duration.
This is a fantastic core workout as, during the exercise, you use your ab muscles to stabilize yourself (5).
Another compound workout, it engages your abs, lower body, and lats.
- First, lie faceup on the ball with the head and shoulders supported, weight resting over the chest.
- Keep the glutes contracted to lift the body into a bridge position, making a straight line from knees to head.
- Then, take the weight straight up over the chest, arms slightly bent. You can hold a dumbbell on either side or use a medicine ball.
- Keeping the body tight and stable, slowly lower the weight behind you, keeping the elbows slightly bent.
- Only lower the weight as far as your flexibility allows and try not to lower the weight below your head.
- Contract the back muscles to pull the weight back up over the chest.
- Repeat this ten to fifteen times.
All the above workouts are amazing and effective examples of how to tighten the core. For the best results, make sure to do two to three sets of any of the above workout options. However, you must keep in mind that you need to pace yourself. Do not do all exercises at once as you will most probably overwork and hurt yourself.
The Bottom Line
Most, if not all of us, would love to have a quick “how to tighten core” secret. Sadly, there is no such thing. However, if you would like to have a tighter core, enviable abs, or flat tummy, do the right thing by sticking to a healthy diet and working out regularly. Do not starve yourself, pick quick and potentially dangerous diets, or over-exercise in the hope of faster results. A tight core is a labor of love that takes dedication.
1. How to lose weight and tighten your core?
Set realistic goals for yourself
Before embarking on a weight loss journey, the first thing you need to do is sit down and take a moment to set goals for yourself. Most lose their motivation to work out and lose weight due to unrealistic expectations. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a healthy and sustainable weight loss goal involves losing half a kilogram to one kilogram a week (one to two pounds) (11).
Fix your diet and calorie intake
Obesity and overweight people tend to consume more calories than they need or burn in a day. This is also made worse by the convenience of fast food, which is normally quite unhealthy and loaded with extra calories. To lose weight and eventually tighten your core, choose to eat healthier foods. Also, pay mind to the amount of food you consume on a day and go on a calorie deficit.
Reducing your intake by 500 to 1000 calories a day is a great place to start (9). A calorie deficit can be achieved easily by:
- Opting to have home-cooked meals instead of takeout
- Drinking water instead of soda and other sugary drinks
- Replacing energy drinks and pre-packaged fruit and vegetable juices with fresh fruits and vegetables
Remember that everything should be done in moderation. If you choose to treat yourself, choose to have one slice of pizza instead of three. These small changes to your eating plan will have big results in your weight loss.
Increased physical activity and exercise
A great way to help you lose weight is to workout. You can incorporate some of the above “how to tighten your core” workouts into your daily routine. If you do not exercise regularly, you can start by taking a walk every day while counting your steps (4). With time, you will build up your endurance and incorporate full body and core exercises in your daily routine.
Incorporated compound exercises
While we have established that spot exercising is a myth, compound exercises are a great way to lose weight and work on multiple muscles, including building and tightening those in your core (2). You do not just have to do sit-ups and crunches to tighten your core fast.
2. How to tighten your core in a week?
In as much as you would love to get a flatter tummy in a week or two, this is not possible. Remember that your core did not lose its definition in a week. You cannot undo months or years-long damage in a few days.
3. How to tighten your core fast?
As stated above, there is no quick fix to a tighter core or flat stomach. You will need to work out, eat right, and be patient. Eventually, your dedication will pay off.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. A licensed physician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any medical conditions. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- 4 Ways to Practice Contracting Your Abs When Exercising (2019, livestrong.com)
- 5 Exercises for a Stronger Core That You Didn’t Realize Work Your Abs (2019, livestrong.com)
- 6 Tips for Flat Abs (2007, webmd.com)
- 10,000 steps a day: Too low? Too high? (2020, mayoclinic.org)
- Are Flutter Kicks the Best Ab Exercise? (2019, livestrong.com)
- Core Anatomy: Muscles of the Core (2013, acefitness.org)
- Core conditioning — It’s not just about abs (n.d, health.harvard.edu)
- Core-strength exercises (2017, mayoclinic.org)
- How to Lose Weight in the Core (2020, livestrong.com)
- How To Properly Engage Your Core (2020, verywellfit.com)
- Losing Weight (2020, cdc.gov)
- Myths and Misconceptions: Spot Reduction and Feeling the Burn (2013, acefitness.org)
- Slideshow: The Best Flat Abs Moves for Men (2020, webmd.com)
- The importance of stretching (2013, health.harvard.edu)