Why Your Stomach Looks Bigger Even Though You Do a Ton of Abs Workouts


And how to prevent it. (Photo: Shutterstock)

I do a ton of core work, but I swear my stomach looks bigger. Haalp!

Sounds crazy, but it could be true. (So unfair, I know.) The most common reason for this side effect is tight hip flexors. You’re probably doing traditional situps or crunches, right? Those standard core moves can shorten flexors, tilting your hips forward and creating the appearance of a pooch. Your body may also start relying on your hip flexors to crank the moves out, meaning you’re working them instead of your abs.

Related: Will Working Out Twice a Day Actually Help You Lose More Weight?

But even if your stomach isn’t looking larger, you’re better off canning the crunches and situps altogether and sticking to stabilization exercises, such as planks, instead. As you do them, focus on drawing your stomach in and bracing your abdominal muscles. (You can get a sense of what this feels like by lying on your back and pulling your belly button down toward the floor.) This switches on the deep stabilizer muscles that are more likely to give you the flat tummy you’re after.

Related: How Often You Should Switch Up Your Workout to Keep Losing Weight

Rachel Cosgrove, C.S.C.S., owner of Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, CA, and author of Drop Two Sizes

Have fitness questions? Send them to askanything@rodale.com or tweet them to @womenshealthmag with the hashtag #AskWH. And for answers to reader questions on various other topics, check out the “Ask Anything” section in the May 2015 issue of Women’s Health, on newsstands now.

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By The Editors of Women’s Health