We’re firm believers that all you need to be ‘beach body ready’ is the skin you’re in (and a beach to have fun on!) and nobody should feel pressured to look a certain way to enjoy feeling the sun on their skin.
But if you are training towards a more toned physique and trying to work on your abs before bikini season, it pays to know whether you’re going about it in the best way possible.
We asked personal trainer Cecilia Harris – co-founder of Lucy Mecklenburgh’s fitness platform Results with Lucy (resultswithlucy.com) – to share her top tips for toning up those abs in the weeks leading up to a holiday…
1. Mix it up
“Many of us still rely on crunches to get toned abs, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that crunching on its own is not the most effective ab workout. This is because crunches only work some of the muscles in your core, rather than targeting all of the muscles you need – including lower back, hips, and upper thighs.
“A few of my favourite ab-defining exercises are planks with a side crunch, mountain climbers, leg lifts, planks with knee to elbow movements and alligator drags – where you’re in a high plank position and you use your hands to drag the rest of your body across the floor. Top tip: you’ll need to put the balls of your feet on some gliders or a tea towel, so they easily slide across the floor.”
2. Add weight
“One of the best ways to tone your abs is to overload the muscles by adding weight to a movement. If you’re holding a plank, balance some weight on your back – but be careful to keep the core strong and engaged so your lower back doesn’t take the brunt.
“Adding weight can build your muscles, which all helps towards gaining that ‘pop’ of ab definition before going on holiday. My go-to moves are weighted Russian twists, dumbbell sit-ups, cable crunches and dumbbell crunches – where you hold the dumbbell close to your chest as you crunch.”
3. Create a calorie deficit
“If you’re carrying excess fat, you’ll need to lose it to get a lean midsection. If you want to lose fat? You’ll need to burn more calories than you put in. In other words, create a calorie deficit.
“Having said that, you still need to make sure you are getting all the right nutrients, so really it’s about eating smart and making sure what you eat has nutritional value and is not wasted calories.
“Simple changes can make a big difference, like cutting down portion sizes or swapping a milky coffee for green tea. For each person, the calorie deficit will be different, depending on variables like your height, weight, gender and how active you are.
“I don’t believe that creating a day-to-day calorie deficit is necessary if you are living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. However, if you are looking to get that extra ab definition before a holiday, then shaving off some calories can work.”
4. Don’t forget compound movements
“It’s not just ab-specific exercises that you need to create a strong, lean core. If you’ve found yourself at a standstill with your abs, try adding in some compound movements like deadlifts, kettlebell swings and goblet squats.
“The reason exercises like this work wonders for your core is because you have to contract the muscles in that area to perform compound and dynamic movements. You’ll soon notice the difference!”
5. Keep cardio in check
“Finally, although lots of cardio won’t build abs, it is good for fat loss – and it’s been shown to be particularly effective at burning belly fat.
“If your holiday is coming up and you feel like progress has slowed, or you’ve reached a plateau, you can add in some extra cardio or HIIT sessions with exercises like jumping squats, burpees and bum kicks to help reduce excess fat.”
Cecilia Harris is a qualified PT and co-founder of online fitness, nutrition and health platform, Results with Lucy. For more information, visit resultswithlucy.com