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Almost every mom dreams about getting her abs back in shape after giving birth (unless you're one of the lucky few who shrank back to your old self the minute you left the delivery room). The logical solution is to do tons of crunches, right? Actually, that's one of the worst moves you can make, says Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University, in Montgomery, Alabama. "Crunches only target one of several ab muscles -- primarily the rectus abdominis -- and that's the one that's most overstretched during pregnancy," she explains. Not only will going crunch-crazy get you iffy results, you'll put too much pressure on this now-delicate, overburdened muscle.
And even if your child is older and your abs have long since healed, all moms will get the best results possible by doing a mix of tummy-toning moves that target all your ab muscles. Her crunch-free Pilates plan does just that -- and, as a bonus, it strengthens your pelvic-floor muscles, which also get weaker during pregnancy. Do this super-quick workout three times a week and you'll see firmer abs in no time!
Lie faceup on the floor with your arms at your sides, palms down. Scoop your belly in (imagine you're pulling your belly button toward your spine) and extend your right leg toward the ceiling, toes pointed and turned slightly outward. Inhale and imagine that you're tracing a circle about the size of a dinner plate with your right leg, tightening your abs to keep hips still on the floor throughout the movement. Circle 10 times clockwise, then repeat in a counter-clockwise direction. Switch legs and repeat.
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