Protruding belly

You are slim but your belly protrudes anyway and no diet can help? You are in the right place – you will learn how to address this issue as it has nothing to do with being overweight.

The issue is not related to fat or diet – most probably it is the angle of your pelvis that is to be faulted. If we are sedentary for a long time – and I mean here long years in front of screens, at work, at school, driving, watching television, etc. – the muscles that bring the front of the pelvis down gradually become shorter and stronger while the ones responsible for pulling it down at the back become longer and weaker. As a result, the spine curves slightly and the belly goes forward.

(source: Wikipedia)

In order to correct this, one has to stretch one set of muscles and strengthen another. Forget about sucking the tummy in and start walking with your pelvis straight.

Stretching hip flexors (the muscles bringing your knee to the chest) is the easiest bit. Come into a lunge with the back knee extended. Bring the body forward slightly while tensing the front buttock until you can sense the feeling of stretching and slight pain at the front of your hip. Hold for several seconds and come back to neutral position gently. Several sessions for each side daily throughout a few months should correct the issue. Do not expect huge progress immediately as the issue has been created over many years. Poses that stretch the quads are not key as the problem doesn’t lie there. The most popular pose where one leg is bent at the knee and the calf brought to the thigh while standing can be auxiliary but won’t be the most important one here. Strengthening the gulteus muscles is much harder but also much more difficult. If we “forget” how to use these muscles, their function will be taken over by your hamstrings and back muscles. Even if you do train gluteus muscles their function will be taken over and the issues will be exaggerated. The work needs to be done gradually.

Let’s do a small test here – stand in an easy pose, lift up a leg and move it backward as if you were to step back – and check the buttocks now. If the muscle is tense, you’re fine but if it’s soft a lot of work lies ahead. The first stage is re-learning how to be aware of the buttocks. Sit flat on the floor with the legs stretched out in front of you and lean back slightly. You should be balancing and now tense the buttocks, so that the body goes up a tiny bit. No problem? Great – you are ready for stage two. Stand up and bring a leg back as if you wanted to kick or step back (knee is extended). Initiate the movement from the buttock – it is not a big move, we are after precision here.

Exercises. Google “glute bridge” – it is a relatively hard one because we will subconsciously activate back and hamstrings. Keep your tummy muscles engaged and feet nearly under the buttocks at the beginning – this will lessen the incorrect engagement. Another helpful one – Google “lunges”; Step forward in a big stride and flex the front knee while lowering yourself down. Rest the body weight on your heel, keep the leg straight. In the final phase of the exercise, you may lean forward, resting the palms of the hands at either side of your foot. Finally, learn how to walk with the buttocks tense in the right moment. This will help to pull the pelvis down and straighten the spine – be mindful about your hips and gultes at all times. Abdominals bring the pelvis up at the front and it is vital to improve their work. Plank and plank related exercises are great for this purpose. Rest forearms on the floor and curl the toes under (you many lower the knees initially). Keeping the body in a straight line is vital and the pelvis correctly engaged. You need an external observer to help you correct your posture though.

A trick that can make your waist thinner instantly (also helpful for some female issues) involves a “hidden” muscle – transverse abdominal muscle. Many a time it is weak which results in a saggy lower belly. Training is easy peasy – you don’t need any special preparations or space. The pose is doable while queuing in a shop: Exhale fully and bring the belly button to the spine – hold for 10 seconds (you can take tiny breaths if you must) – you will feel a burning sensation just below your belly button. Know that if your belly button goes up the spine, you’re doing this incorrectly and working with a diaphragm. It is easier to understand the movement while exercising on your fours, in a table top position.