Exercises to Flatten Your Stomach

Updated July 24, 2019
Women in fitness gym

When combined with a healthy diet, strength and cardio exercise, stomach-flattening exercises can help give you those toned abs you've been hoping for. Go beyond the traditional crunches and get quicker results. In addition to a healthy lifestyle, the following exercises will give you the flat stomach and toned abs you want.

Studies on the Best Stomach Flattening Exercises

The American Council on Exercise (ACE) is an educational organization for group exercise instructors and personal trainers. Since many fitness participants are interested in flattening their bellies, ACE decided to fund a study that examined the benefits of the various types of abdominal exercises. The following exercises required the maximum number of abdominal fibers.

The Bicycle Maneuver

  1. Lie flat on your back with your lower back pressed into the floor.
  2. Place the tips of your fingers along the side of your head, right above your ears.
  3. Elevate your legs to a 45-degree angle and begin a bicycle pedaling motion.
  4. Bring your left elbow to your right knee, then your right elbow to your left knee. The opposing hip should stay flat on the floor.
  5. Perform 20 repetitions or 10 twists to each side.
Bicycle Kick

Stability Ball Crunch

The stability ball has an added benefit. Since it challenges your balance, it requires you to recruit your deep core muscles.

  1. Sit on the ball with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor.
  2. Lie back until your thighs are parallel to the floor with your butt, back and shoulder blades on the ball.
  3. Place your fingertips in the same position used for bicycle maneuver. Begin with a small nod of the head, while you inhale to prepare.
  4. As you exhale, draw your belly towards your spine and lift your shoulder blades to a 45-degree angle. You can also work your obliques, by rotating your torso from side to side.
  5. Perform 10 repetitions of the straight crunch and 16 repetitions, or eight to each side of the oblique exercise.
Stability Ball Crunch

Captain's Chair Exercise

Captain's chair exercises strengthen your rectus abdominis and your transverse abdominis. They require a specialized piece of equipment that is available at most gyms.

  1. To perform the captain's chair exercises, hang by your forearms from the captain's chair and bend your knees towards your chest in a controlled manner.
  2. Lower them using the same level of control.
  3. Repeat the desired number of times.
Captain's Chair Exercise

Additional Exercises for a Flatter Stomach

The following exercises are not a part of the study, but have been shown to be effective for flattening abs. Maintaining proper form is very important with each of these exercises in order to get results and prevent injuries.


Crunches are the most commonly performed abdominal exercises for a reason. Without any equipment, you can do crunches that work your entire abdominal region. The many variations of crunches can also help you target different areas of the abs, such as the reverse crunch for lower abs.

Woman doing crunches

Leg Lifts

The ab muscles must work overtime to stabilize your movements in a leg lift. With this exercise, the slower and smoother you make the movement, the harder your muscles must work - don't allow the swinging momentum of movement to take over, but instead make your ab muscles control the movement.

Fit girl doing leg lifts


Planks are simply a great overall strengthening exercise that challenges your entire core region. When done in conjunction with a caloric deficit or changes to macronutrient intake, planks can help flatten your stomach.

Man and woman doing plank exercises at the gym

Secrets to a Flat Stomach

Abdominal exercise is only one of the tools used to achieve a flat stomach. In fact, it plays a minor role. A flat stomach depends on the food that you eat, burning the fat from that food, postural alignment and hydration. Eating excess calories or foods that cause bloat will make your stomach protrude.

Other Factors

As you get older, an inactive lifestyle will result in the excess accumulation of belly fat. Women often find that as menopause approaches, belly fat increases as a result of hormonal shifts. Aerobic exercise can counteract this tendency, but be sure to stay hydrated. Dehydration causes your body to store water, which in turn creates abdominal bloat. Unfortunately, even the best diet and aerobic exercise program cannot undo the negative effects of poor posture on the abdominal area. If you stand with an arched back, or if you tend to slouch, your stomach will never look flat, even if you only have a minimal amount of body fat.

You Can't Just Spot Reduce

Remember, you can't spot reduce. All the stomach-flattening exercises in the world won't give you a sculpted midsection if it's buried under a layer of fat that needs to be burned off. Incorporate high-intensity interval training and eat a diet full of lean protein, fruits, and vegetables for the best results.

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Exercises to Flatten Your Stomach