A month of simple moves for a more toned middle.
Make Your Abs Over
Beach season is in full swing. With our perfect ab plan you'll finally have the confidence (and muscle tone) to bare your stomach. This exclusive one-month makeover will help you build a stronger core by targeting the different abdominal muscles, rev up your metabolism, and burn belly fat before you know it. The workout, designed by Angela Corcoran, a personal trainer at Equinox in New York City and professor of exercise physiology at Queens College in Flushing, New York, provides significant results in a short amount of time. Just combine the following easy-to-do strength moves with regular (four to six times a week) cardio workouts, such as 30-minute power walks, family bike rides, or stair-climbing and jumping-jack sessions. Soon you'll be well on your way to a flatter, toned midsection.
The Ab Workout (Part 1)
Dedicate at least 15 minutes, three days a week, to these ab exercises. If they seem easy, boost the intensity by adding weight, modifying the moves, decreasing the rest periods between sets, or adding the Bonus Move on the next page. If you feel a little sore, keep at it -- some muscle fatigue is a good sign. "The 'no pain, no gain' cliche is true when it comes to working your abdominals," says Corcoran. If your abs really ache, do a round of cardio that day to increase blood flow to the sore muscles, she suggests. You'll end up feeling -- and looking -- better in no time.
The Plan: Three days a week, pick one "Waist Whittler" (a side-to-side move that targets the obliques) from this page and one "Belly Blaster" (a front-to-back move that works the "six-pack" muscle) from the next page.
Waist Whittler 1: Modified Side Plank
Lie on your left side, propped up on your forearm with your elbow directly below your shoulder. Put your right hand on your hip so that your right elbow points toward the ceiling. With your legs in a straight line and your feet stacked, straighten your left arm and press your hips toward the ceiling (this is your starting position, see photo A at left). Dip your hip and torso toward the floor, keeping your left arm straight (B), then return to starting position. Do 10 to 20 reps, then switch sides.
Waist Whittler 2: T-Bends
Hold a light, 3- to 5-pound weight in each hand (or use two cans of soup). Keeping your arms straight, extend them out to your sides so your body forms the letter "T" (this is your starting position, A). Keep your knees straight as you hinge slightly at the hips and reach your right arm toward the ground (B). Return to starting upright position. Reach your left arm toward the ground and return to starting upright position to complete 1 rep. Be sure to keep your hips straight and centered as you perform this "teeter-totter" motion to each side. Work up to 20 reps (if that feels easy, increase the weight).
Waist Whittler 3: Weighted Twists
Place a 3- to 5-pound weight (or a large book) on a hip-height chair or table. Stand in front of the surface with your back to the object. Twist your entire torso to your left, pick up the weight (A), then twist in the opposite direction and put the object back on the table (B). For a small object, like a weight, use just one hand. For a large object, like a book, use both hands. Reverse directions to complete 1 rep. Be sure to stay upright and keep your hips facing forward to properly challenge your core muscles. During the exercise keep your hips resting lightly against the table or chair to make sure you're rotating from the spine and targeting your obliques. Do 15 to 20 reps. Up the weight if it's too easy.
The Ab Workout (Part 2)
Beat the bulge with moves that target the rectus abdominis -- the long, flat muscle in the center of your core.
Belly Blaster 1: Negative Sit-Up
Start by sitting on the floor with your feet flat on the ground, knees bent and pointed toward the ceiling. Fold your arms in front of your chest (this is your starting position, A). Slowly roll back and lower yourself to the ground, one vertebra at a time (B). The toughest part will be the second half of the exercise, when your lower back is already on the ground and you're rolling the rest of your spine down. Return to starting position without using your hands. Complete 3 sets of 15 slow reps.
Belly Blaster 2: Floor Twist
This variation on "Weighted Twists" works the center of your core, too. Stand with your back to a hip-height table, with a 3- to 5-pound weight on the floor in front of you (this is your starting position). Keep your knees slightly bent and your back flat as you tilt forward from the hips to pick up the weight (A). As you come up, twist to your right and place the weight on the table behind you (B), then rotate to the left to retrieve the object from the table. Return to center, then bend forward and place the weight on the floor. Lift the weight again, this time twisting to the left to set it on the table and rotating to the right to pick it up before returning it to the floor to complete 1 rep. Do 15 to 20 reps.
Belly Blaster 3: Modified Leg Extension
Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair with your arms behind you. Hold on to the sides of the chair for support. Slowly pull your knees into your chest (A). Extend your legs straight out in front of you, letting them hover just above the ground for a few seconds (B). Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your toes, and your feet and legs should not touch the ground at any point during the exercise. Bring your knees back in to your chest to complete 1 rep. Work up to 15 reps.
Bonus Move: Side Crunch
Lie on the ground as if you were going to do a typical sit-up, then let your knees fall to the right with your chin, chest, and torso still facing the ceiling (A). With arms bent and hands gently behind your head, lift your upper body and shoulders off the ground as high as you can (B). Be careful not to let knees come off the ground or you'll disengage the abs. Do 15 reps, then flip your knees to the other side and repeat. Work up to 3 sets on each side.