The best way to burn fat from your abs is by training your legs with consistency and intensity. Bigger muscles need more calories to repair them from training, and more calories just to exist in general. For this reason, I always include lots of lower body exercises in all my fat-loss programs. And while many people gravitate toward the exercise machines, like the leg press and leg extensions; free-weight exercises or those performed with dumbbell, kettlebells or sandbags make the majority of my training. These provide more bang for your buck because the body has to control the implement and instead of the machine bracing for you, the core and upper body are now incorporated and that means more muscle burring and a bigger fat-loss boost.
So trim down and tone up with three of my favorite lower body exercises.
How to do it: Stand with your legs about shoulder-width apart, with your toes pointed slightly outward. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell and hold it against your chest. With a kettlebell, hold the handle, but with a dumbbell just hold it vertically by the one end. Squat down with the goal of having your elbows, which are pointed downward because you’re cradling the bell, slide past the inside of your knees. Then squeeze your glutes and quads to standing position.
This is an excellent exercise to strengthen the glutes, quads and core while at the same time increase hip mobility. By holding the weight in front of your body, it forces you into proper position, which also reduces the risk of squatting. This is a more natural movement pattern, compared to back loaded squats, and easier for people to learn the squat movement.
Front squats with sandbag
How to do it: Similar the goblet, the front squat is done with the weight in front of the body. I like the sand bag because it is easier to hold compared to a barbell and if you get scared, you can drop it and not have to worry about it.
During squats the body has to resist gravity, balance and hold the upper body still while the lower body moves. This movement not only requires great lower body strength but core strength, too. Core-strength is important in sports and life. Increasing core-strength decreases the chance of injury in daily activities and sports. The squat increases core strength, but the leg press does not.
The squat exercise better mimics the real life motion that is common in almost every sport that is to extend the hips and knees as one. The seated leg press only allows for completed knee extension, which is great for the quadriceps, but the hip muscles that are so critical are largely left out. Instead of treating the lower body as individual muscles, like the leg press, the squat is a compound movement that uses multiple joints and muscle groups. Whether jumping, running or swimming the body works together as one and the coordination acquired by training with squats will care over.
How to do it: Stand with feet hip-width apart, and place a kettlebell between your feet. Hinge at the hips with slightly bent knees to lower your body down to grasp the kettlebell both arms.
Initiating an explosive upward movement to swing the kettlebell upward, returning to a vertical standing position, do not arch your back, and squeeze the glutes. Allow the kettlebell to swing until the arms are parallel to the floor. Remember this is not a shoulder exercise, but an exercise to generate explosive force in the hips. Repeat for the desired number of reps.
The kettlebell swing involves the powerful muscles of the hips to generate force and mimics the same athletic hip extension that is so important in many sports. For skiing the hips help turn and are responsible for jumping and absorbing force.
As always, consult your doctor prior to starting any exercise program and if you are unsure how to properly perform any exercise, seek the advice of a trained fitness professional.
—Kyler Crouse, BS, CSCS, FMS is a personal trainer and strength coach who trains at Sierra Athletic Club and in the homes of clients in the greater Lake Tahoe area. Crouse specializes in performance enhancement and injury prevention. Visit www.KCstrength.com for more information.