5 Things That Get in the Way of a Flat Tummy

Beautiful blonde girl exercise Pilates.
Uchar/E+/Getty Images

Many people do Pilates exercises and other workouts to get flat abs. Sometimes, no matter what you do, you can't get your belly to pull in during exercise, and it doesn't look flat at all when you aren't exercising. It is frustrating to work hard and not get the flat stomach you are after.

Pilates exercises are great for flat abs, so if you have been doing your Pilates properly and your belly is still sticking out, you might be tempted to quit and head for the couch. Before you do, take a look at some possible causes (besides weak abdominals).


Watch Now: 5 Common Ab Myths Debunked

5 Things That Prevent a Flat Stomach 

If you occasionally go through phases where you can't get your abs to pull in, these are some of the more straightforward causes and simple fixes for misbehaving bellies. If your symptoms are persistent, you should consult your healthcare practitioner. These are not medical recommendations.

Eating Too Much Before a Workout

There is a fine line between eating recently enough to have steady energy for a workout and being too full. You can't have eaten too much and get a great scoop on the abs.

What should you eat before Pilates? The shortest answer is that many people depend on a small snack, something with a little protein, healthy fat, or complex carbohydrate. Stay away from simple sugars like those in soda and candy bars. They cause blood sugar to go up and down too fast.

Eat your snack not too long before a workout, along with eating healthfully throughout the day. For a snack, a few nuts are one of the more commonly reported choices, as are protein smoothies. Of course, you have to be the judge of the actual exertion level of your workouts and what you really need.

Doing Pilates Exercises Incorrectly

Many people learn to do sit-ups and crunch wrong. You may have learned to do them in a way that shortens the rectus abdominis muscle, making it pooch out at your middle instead of being the nice, long, flexible muscle it's supposed to be. The many forward bending exercises in Pilates will give you beautiful abs if you do them right.

But if you do them like crunches you won't get the real core strength you're looking for, and your belly will stick out. If you think this might be your problem, work on correcting your form. Then, practice with the Pilates chest lift.

Water Weight

Retaining water can make you look and feel fatter than you are. The amount of water your cells retain has a lot to do with the balance of sodium and potassium in your body fluids. Too much salt (sodium), the curse of modern diets, is often the easiest cause of water weight to fix. 

Fluctuating hormones can also cause water weight gain. PMS, for example, is famous for causing water retention. Even if you are retaining water, it is still important to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of pure water. Drinking enough water will help your body balance minerals like sodium and potassium and maintain blood pressure.

Abdominal Bloating

Bloating from digestive problems is a problem for many people. Constipation, gas, and food intolerances are all associated with bloat.

A Little Extra Body Fat

It's true that fat on top of the abs will hide them and give a round appearance to the abdomen, so the stomach won't look flat. But that doesn't mean you can't pull your abs in. If you have just a few inches of fat on top of your abs, you should be able to pull your abs in and see a significant difference when you do.

Of course, if you are doing Pilates and developing ab strength, you might want to show them off by losing weight and revealing them. Do be advised that weight loss happens all over the body. Spot reduction is mostly a myth, so keep your workouts balanced.

Was this page helpful?