This is what I look like if I flex: enter image description here

But if I relax, my belly actually sticks out quite a bit: enter image description here

Is this normal? Should I try to lose some fat?

EDIT: admittedly in the second picture I was purposely slouching in order to enhance the effect. Here's a picture I've just taken in which I'm standing as I normally would.

Visceral fat is extremely unhealthy, as far as I've read, so that's what I'm asking about. enter image description here

  • 1
    Does standing with correct posture (chest up, shoulders back, etc) help?
    – Alex L
    Sep 18 '15 at 1:34
  • Username does not match photographs :) I upvoted because I am also not sure if this represents visceral fat, a powerful core, or just body dysmorphia. The posture required to make my pecs stick out farther than my belly seems quite distorted.
    – Noumenon
    Sep 18 '15 at 2:15
  • Your posture is bad. Too much sitting, not strong enough.
    – Eric
    Sep 18 '15 at 4:08
  • Losing fat will reduce the size, but it won't tense the muscles; you need consistent core/abs exercises. Usually, if you consistently train your abs muscles, they'll naturally become tense when you're standing up (or even after slight stretching) without the need to flex. So, even in your relaxed state, your core will still feel tense. Obviously, the lower the body fat %, the better it'll look; however, you won't need to flex the muscles for the definition to be displayed. Sep 18 '15 at 5:44
  • Thanks for your comments. Added a picture of how I'd normally stand Sep 18 '15 at 8:31

Is It Normal To Have A Belly When You Relax?

Absolutely! If you've got a gut, you've got a gut; you can't be tensing your body all day; that will wear and tire you out quickly.

Should You Have A Belly When Relaxed?

If your goal is to have six pack, it's not acceptable. Apart from any medical issue, I see it as a result of two issues:

  • Your body fat % isn't low enough. The lower the body fat percentage, the lower the gut, even when relaxed.
  • Your core muscles (especially the lower section) are still relatively weak. When you flexed, you were actively engaging those muscles, which was why the gut got pulled inwards. To get rid of guts, those muscles should naturally become tense.

How Do I Make My Core Muscles Naturally Tense?

  • Perform more full body exercises to engage your core muscles. Pullups, chinups, and pushups are great body-weight exercises (although they hit the upper body more) that strengthen the core. Deadlifts and squats (back and front) also perform wonders.
  • Don't ignore leg days. Unless performing isolated exercises, many of the leg exercises strengthen the core. Lunges, good mornings, front squats, standing cross squats, etc are good exercises to perform.
  • Set apart time for core/abs training. Ask people with well-defined abs, they'll tell you that they set aside time to work on their abs. All the exercises mentioned above engage the core; however, the core muscles aren't the primary muscles engaged. Performing exercises such as Russian twists, leg raises, dead hangs, planks jack knifes, etc strengthen the core.

When you perform these exercises (especially the core exercises) often, you should begin to notice the following:

  • Your core muscles naturally stay tense for most part of your days (without you having to suck in your stomach); they become naturally engaged.
  • Your core actually feels tight, as if you're being constricted (and nope, it won't feel like you're being suffocated)
  • Simple movement such as light stretches readily make your muscles tense.

At this point, your muscles will be tense even in your "relaxed state".

Of course, all these won't make much difference without a low body fat %. The lower the %, the more rewards your efforts will see.


It is perfectly normal. There is nothing inherently wrong with a relaxed abdomen "sticking out" like that. This is how a human beings look like when their body is in rest-and-digest mode. Even the abdomen of strong, perfectly healthy people can stick out, when they relax completely.

That does not mean you should spend the whole day like that of course. If you have an active lifestyle, a balanced exercise program, and your diet is under control, there is no reason to obsess over your looks. In fact, misguided advice to always tense and pull in your abdomen can be bad for your digestion and can cause unnecessary stress.

What is really causing your stomach to stick out on the second picture is called an anterior pelvic tilt. If it becomes chronic, it might cause back problems, and require fixing (preferably by a physio). But again, it might not be a chronic problem for you right now. If you want to read more about it, take a look at this answer.

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