Dossier: Exercise videos

The best abdominal exercises in five minutes

Looking to train or tone your abs or get rid of stubborn abdominal fat? Martina Kratzer, instructor at Zone4Performance Winterthur, explains what you need to know.

Text: Sanitas; videos and photos: Sebastian Doerk

According to the Sanitas Health Forecast 2020, many people see their stomach as their biggest problem area. Of course, a sixpack would be great for summer, but strong stomach muscles are about much more than just looking good. A strong core brings stability to all our movements – in sport and everyday life. With three simple exercises you can get your stomach muscles in shape quickly and effectively. Martina Kratzer, fitness instructor at Zone4Performance in Winterthur, explains what you need to do.

Exercise 1: Bear – activation and control

“This is the perfect way to start any abs workout. To do this exercise you need to tense and activate your stomach muscles. Focus on pulling in your belly button and building up maximum tension in your torso.”

How it works

Get down on all-fours. Hands under your shoulders, knees under your hips, balls of your feet on the floor. Keep your back straight – don’t let it curve up or dip down. When you’re ready, lift your knees about three centimetres off the floor. Beginners should hold this static position three times for 20 seconds each time to practise controlling the abdominal muscles. For more of a challenge, you can take little steps forwards and backwards on all fours, keeping your hips as still as possible.

Exercise 2: Beetle – more comfortable and more effective than sit-ups

“With this exercise, you can really focus on stabilising the spine. Why is this important? If you push yourself too far or move your lower back too much when you’re doing ab exercises, this can damage the lumbar spine.”

How it works

Lie on your back with your knees bent 90 degrees. By activating your abdominal muscles, you can stabilise the lower back in its natural form, or push it slightly towards the floor if you have a pronounced hollow back. Now let’s focus on the legs: What happens to the lower back when we move our legs towards the floor? It wants to lift up from the floor. You need to activate your stomach muscles to avoid getting a hollow back and to stabilise the lower back in its natural form. Depending on your individual level, you can move your legs a few centimetres forwards and backwards or you can lower one leg or both legs to the floor with your knees bent or straight.

Exercise 3: plank – a versatile classic

“Planks are an old favourite in a number of exercise routines. If done properly, they help beginners and advanced learners alike achieve a really strong, defined stomach. Here, too, it’s important that you activate your stomach muscles so you don’t put any pressure on your back.”

How it works

Lay down on your stomach and raise yourself up on your forearms and the balls of your feet. Your elbows should be under your shoulders, legs out straight and your feet hip-width apart. Suck in your stomach. If you feel a pulling sensation in your back, stop the exercise or lower your knees to the floor. A common mistake people make when they’re tired is to raise their bottom higher and higher. It’s better to put your knees on the floor and keep your back straight.

Core Challenge

Exercise whenever and wherever you want! The video shows you a versatile and efficient workout for your abs that only takes 5 minutes.

More tips for a flat stomach

In addition to exercising, it’s also important to watch what you eat. Ladina Poltera, dietician at Zone4Performance, adds:

  1. Eat fresh food: Vitamins and minerals found in green vegetables help, for example, to burn calories more efficiently and regulate the appetite.
  2. Eat less sugar: A piece of chocolate eaten after a full meal is easier for the body to digest than a sugar shock in the middle of the afternoon.
  3. Avoid alcohol: Not new information, but very important: the liquid calories go straight to your stomach.
  4. Check for food intolerances: For example, if you’re allergic to sugar, gluten or dairy products but continue to eat them, it will be hard to lose fat from your stomach. 5. Less stress, more sleep: The stress hormone cortisol and a lack of sleep make you crave sugar and carbohydrates.

Martina Kratzer, athletics coach

Hailing from Thun, Martina plays in the Swiss national polo team and is currently doing a masters in elite sports at the Swiss Federal Institute of Sport Magglingen. At Zone4Performance Winterthur she has turned her passion into her profession and supports athletes and private individuals in overcoming physical and mental limits to unlock their sporting potential.