The Pooch Belly

The lower abdominal region is a big target area for many people who diet and exercise.  Commonly called a "pooch belly," this is a condition wherein the skin and muscle hang loose.  There can be several causes, one being a simple matter of body fat.  Men and women both tend to carry stubborn belly fat around the bellybutton.  Even with the strongest and tightest abs, the muscle will be hidden behind fatty tissue.  Next, posture plays an important role in how the abdominal wall works and looks on the body.  With anterior pelvic tilt, or "Donald Duck" posture, the lower stomach simply bulges out as a result of the alignment of the spine and hips.  Finally, visceroptosis is a condition in which the organs sag from their original positions, pushing down and out, and weakening the deep core musculature.  This is seen often in post-natal women especially with c-sections. 

How to Tighten the the Pooch Belly

The following 3 strategies will support anyone in the goal to obtain a flatter stomach.

We'll start with a twist on a basic core exercise - the plank.  Most people try to hold planks for time - 30 seconds to 2 minutes.  This typically leads to energy conservation to avoid muscular fatigue. Rather than planking for endurance, approach the plank with a focus on strength, this will elicit postural changes quicker.

To begin, lie face down on the floor before propping into the plank position - forearms and toes on the floor, elbows under shoulders, back straight, legs long, feet a few inches apart.  Drive the heels backwards to increase the leverage while contracting the quads and glutes forcefully.  Drive the elbows back but don't actually move them much.  You are essentially crunching against the floor.  

Next, we will stretch the hips.  Get down on one knee (the will-you-marry-me pose) and make sure the feet are parallel.  Put your hands behind your head and slowly lean forward, stretching the hip flexors on the side that has the knee planted down.  The stretch may be felt from the top of the knee all the way up into the lower abs.   Try leaning in then coming back up to rest 5 times per side. Repeat on the other side and take note if you feel any flexibility imbalances.  

Finally, a pooch belly may be the result of inflammatory foods in the diet.  When the digestive system is irritated or inflamed, the abdominal walls suffer and the neuromuscular connection weakens.  Try eliminating carbonated beverages, refined carbohydrates, and artificial colorings. A blood test is best for identifying the types of foods you should avoid, but try simply observing how you feel after certain meals.  Over time, you might find common foods that make you bloated or tired.  Respect how your body reacts and phase these foods out of your diet.  Once you've practiced these strategies for 4-6 weeks, you should notice a marked difference in the appearance of your lower abdominal region!

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