July 04, 2021 9 min read

When you're on a mission to build a six-pack, waking up every day to bloated abdominal muscles can be the most frustrating thing. 

However, you can fix and prevent bloated abs by making certain lifestyle changes and incorporating specific core exercises into your regular workout routine.

Here's exactly how to diminish bloating and get the six-pack abs you want with the simple combo of ab exercises and lifestyle changes!

Man with abdominal pain, stomach ache on black background,

What’s Causing Your Bloated Abs?

Before jumping into ways that you can fix your bloated abs, you first need to identify exactly what’s causing them. Two common conditions cause bloated abs.  They are:

  1. Gastrointestinal issues
  2. ​Bulging abs due to abdominal injuries

These conditions are entirely different yet they both cause bloated abs.  You first must identify which condition you have before diving into how to get rid of the bloated abs.

To start, most gastrointestinal issues are caused by a buildup of gas in your stomach. That buildup of gas could be caused by several things including:

  • Overeating large meals
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Excessive water retention
  • Constipation  
  • Gluten intolerance

Everyone at one point or another in their life has probably experienced bloated abs from gastrointestinal issues. Thankfully, because it is very common, it can most likely be fixed with some simple dietary changes.

On the other hand, bloated abs caused by bulging abs have little to do with what you eat and everything to do with workout-related injuries in the midsection. Those injuries cause swelling in the abdominal area which leads to a bulge that looks just like bloating. The most common injuries in the core area are the result of:

  • Abdominal muscle strain
  • Poor core posture and incorrect breathing
  • Weight gain

First off, a strain (also referred to as a tear or pull) in the abdominal muscles is one of the most likely causes of bulging abs. The most common cause of abdominal strain is overuse of the largest ab muscles such as the rectus abdominis.  Just like any other muscle in the body, the abs can be overused and resultantly be strained. 

Second, having poor posture or incorrect breathing techniques can injure your ab muscles. Poor posture such as slouching can crush your internal organs and result in swelling of the abdominal area.

Lastly, weight gain in the midsection can put tension on the waistline area and cause swelling in the abs. Having excess body fat, particularly belly fat, is also associated with poor posture which can further aggravate the already bulging abs.

So, before going any further, ask yourself the following questions to help identify whether you're suffering from bloated abs caused by gastrointestinal issues or bulging abs caused by abdominal muscle injury:

  1. Have I been eating large meals recently?
  2. Am I gassier than usual?
  3. Do I feel sharp pains like I would feel from a typical muscle strain?
  4. Do I have proper upper body posture when I exercise?

If you answered yes to questions one and/or two, then your abs are most likely bloated due to gas build-up.

If you answered yes to questions three and/or four, then your abs are most likely bloated due to bulging.

3 Simple Ab Workouts for Getting Rid of Bloating

Once you have identified the root cause of your bloated abs, you can then dive in on fixing the problem.

If your bloated abs are caused by gastrointestinal issues, then you must make adjustments to your diet.  Those adjustments will likely include one of the following changes:

  • Reducing your carbohydrate, lactose, or salt intake
  • Eating smaller meals
  • Drinking more water

Making one or more of these changes should reduce your abdominal bloating.If your bloated abs are caused by bulging abdominal muscles, then you must make adjustments to your exercise routine.  Specifically, incorporating particular core exercises into your existing workout routine.

To make things easy, we’re sharing 3 simple ab workouts that help reduce belly bloat caused by bulging abs.  Each workout is designed to address the root causes of bulging abs. Not only will these exercises help give you the flat abs you desire, but they’ll also strengthen your entire core area and help with weight loss.

Workout 1: Isometric Abdominal Workout

This first workout is designed to help strengthen your ab muscles without overworking them and causing strains. Unlike other types of ab exercises like sit-ups, each one in this workout is an isometric hold. Isometric holds engage your ab muscles without doing any body movements. While they may look simple, they're extremely challenging.

  1. Traditional planks: Traditional planks are the go-to isometric hold exercise for the abdominal muscles. Get into position by starting on all fours and balancing on your hands and toes. Your hands should be planted on the floor right underneath your shoulders. The most important thing is that you create one long line with your body. From your neck to your heels, your back should be completely neutral.Once in position, squeeze your entire abdominal region and hold the position. If your wrists hurt from doing the exercise on your hands, you can do a forearm plank instead. To get a better idea of exactly how long you should hold your plank for, check out our complete guide to planks.
  1. Side planks: Start by getting into a traditional plank position on your hands and toes. Once you're balanced, lift your right arm off the ground and reach it to the sky so that your body begins to rotate. Turn your core and feet open towards the right so that your left hip faces the ground. Place your right hand on your hip and hold the position.As you hold the position, make sure that your left hip stays lifted high and doesn’t sink towards the floor. The way to do that is by squeezing your obliques. After holding on the right side, switch and open up to the left side.Unlike traditional ab exercises that work the front of your stomach, side planks work the oblique muscles. The obliques are also known as your side abs and are essential to work if you want to achieve a fully flat belly look.
  1. Side planks with a trunk twist: To round out your abs workout, upgrade your side planks to side planks with a twist.  This little extra twisting movement goes a long way to fire up your obliques.From your right-side side plank, take your right arm and reach it underneath your left hip so that your trunk twists downward. Then, lift the right arm back up towards the ceiling.   Keep twisting your trunk opened and closed. Do ten twists with the right arm and then switch sides and do 10 with the left arm.

Workout 2: Pilates Pelvic Floor Workout

Pilates is an often-underestimated workout. Most of the exercises look easy, but they unexpectedly burn.Pilates is also great for strengthening the hard-to-reach pelvic floor muscles. The pelvic floor is the base of your entire abdominal region. When the pelvic floor is strong, your entire ab region becomes stronger and more stable. And, when your abs are strong and stable, you're less likely to run into over-use-related injuries.

  1. Glute bridges: Lay flat on your back in a neutral position with your arms by your sides and feet pulled in towards your glutes. Exhale and press down into your heels so that your hips lift off the ground. Lift them as high as they will go while still keeping your feet planted on the floor.Imagine as if your hips are attached to a string and suspend in the air. Squeeze your glutes at the top, and then slowly lower your hips back down to the floor. Do ten repetitions of lifting and lowering your hips.
  2. Bird dog: Not only do bird dogs work your pelvic floor muscles, but they also challenge your shoulders and upper back. They are a great addition to any home workout.Start on your hands and knees with a neutral back. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips.  Then, lift and straighten both your right arm and left leg until they are parallel with the floor. Squeeze your muscles, then slowly drop both limbs back to the floor. Repeat on the other side with your left arm and right leg.  Continue to alternate between the two sides.
  3. Clamshells: Lay on the right side of your body in a completely straight line.  Then, prop your head in your hand and bend your knees so that your knees move forward and your feet align with your glutes.  Your left leg should be resting on top of your right leg.Keeping your feet together, open up your left knee to simulate the look of an opening clamshell.  Only open the knee as far as it will go without twisting the hips.  Squeeze the knee open, then slowly drop it back down to starting position.  Open the left knee ten times, then flip to the other side.
adult man with naked torso doing exercise on black background

Workout 3: Cardio and Yoga

Last but not least, doing both cardio and yoga should help reduce abdominal bloat.Unlike the two workouts above that reduce bloating caused by abdominal bulging, cardio can reduce abdominal bloat caused by stomach gas.  Usually, stomach gas needs to be relieved through dietary changes. 

However, cardio can also help relieve some of those built-up stomach gases as well.Cardio helps expel excess gas built up in your stomach.  As your heart rate rises, your breathing picks up, and your diaphragm expands.  That expansion helps push some of that excess gas out of your system. 

However, for cardio to be helpful, you must make sure that you breathe correctly.  Generally, the best way to breathe during cardio is to inhale and exhale from both your nose and mouth together.Next, yoga can help reduce abdominal bloat caused by gas buildup and bulging abdominal muscles.

In terms of relieving gas buildup, yoga involves a lot of stretching of the core region.  Different yoga stretches, particularly those that twist and bend the core, allow gas to move out of your digestive system.  Once the gases move out, your belly bloat reduces.

In terms of relieving bulging abs, yoga helps restore strained muscles in your abs.  With more relief, those strains heal up faster.  Once the strains are relieved, then the swelling goes down, and the bloat disappears.

Common Bloat Mistakes

If you don't already have bloated abs, we suggest doing what you can to prevent them. There are several simple things that you should avoid to prevent bloated abs caused by both gastrointestinal issues and bulging abs. Here's whatnot to do to help keep belly bloat at bay:

Eating Large, High-Carb Meals

Of all the macronutrients, carbs are usually the most difficult to metabolize, meaning that they are the most difficult to digest.  As a result, they tend to leave behind a lot of stomach gas in the digestive system.  Therefore, prevent bloated abs by eating low-carb meals rather than high-carb ones.

Additionally, eating large and heavy meals, in general, can also lead to bloated abs.  A large meal takes a long time to digest.  Because your digestive system doesn’t run at warp speed, it can get built up with food and start to bloat.

Not Monitoring Breathing Patterns During Exercise

Breathing correctly while exercising has several benefits including:

  • Allowing oxygen to reach your spinal cord
  • Keeping your blood oxygen-rich (helps boost energy)
  • Expanding the diaphragm to push stomach gases out

The last point is particularly important when it comes to abdominal bloating.  Deep breathing causes your diaphragm to expand larger.  This expansion helps push stomach gases through your digestive system.  With less gas in your stomach, your bloat naturally reduces.

Slouching While Exercising

One of the easiest ways to injure yourself during exercise, or practically any other time, is to have poor posture.  When you have good posture, you naturally stand up straighter, leaving more space for your abdominal muscles to fully stretch out.

However, it isn’t uncommon for people to slouch and cause muscle strains, including those in their abdominals.  And, those strains are likely to cause abdominal bulging.  So, the next time you go to the gym for a workout, check your upper body posture before lifting a single weight to help prevent bloating.

Overtraining Abdominals

Last but not least, overtraining is very likely to cause abdominal muscle strains and thus abdominal bulging.  While you may think doing highly intense workouts very frequently is what’s best for your health, it can actually be almost as bad for you as not exercising at all.

Overtraining muscles can lead to their breakdown beyond what is easily repairable with muscle protein synthesis.  As a result, your muscles become weaker and more vulnerable to tears.  When they’re more vulnerable to tearing, they’re more likely to swell and bloat.

Therefore, only train as much as your body can manage.  Listen to messages coming from your body: If something hurts, don't push too hard.  If you go beyond your body’s limits, you could end up dealing with injured muscles, bulging, and bloating.

Final Thoughts

Don’t let belly bloat take away from your six-pack abs progress.  You can get rid of belly bloat due to gastrointestinal issues or bulging abs today with our simple workouts and tips!  These little changes can go a long way… you’ll be seeing your abs again before you know it!


Bonus tip:  Want more exercises to help prevent and reduce abdominal bloat due to bulging?  Try our 10 favorite oblique exercises for a strong core!


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