Fit Tip: Focus on Abs
Most dream of having sculpted abs, but it’s not an easy goal to reach. The abdominals are used in virtually every movement from running and lifting to bending and jumping. While cardio exercises will whittle away your middle by torching calories and burning fat, you can achieve a flatter and tighter stomach with the right strength exercises. And crunches aren’t the only way. Try these non-crunching exercises to get results:
Plank: This traditional exercise starts in the standard push-up position: face down, hands shoulder-width apart and balancing on your toes with the abs contracted. (To modify, you can start on your forearms instead of your hands and/or drop your knees to the mat.) The most important thing is to keep your body straight from head to heels (or knees if modifying). Maintain the position for 15-30 seconds by engaging the abdominal muscles and holding the position, being mindful not to let you chest or lower back sag. Use a mirror to check your form. As your core muscles improve, you will be able to hold this position longer. Gradually increase your time up to a minute or more. To increase the difficulty, try lifting one leg to create a balance challenge.
Side Plank: Lie on either side balancing on one arm with your legs straight and the top leg stacked directly on top of the bottom. (To modify, you can start on your forearm instead of your hand and/or drop your bottom knee to the mat.) Align your head with your spine and keep your hips up and your abs contracted. Your side muscles, the obliques, are working hard in this position. Maintain the position for 15-30 seconds by engaging the abdominal muscles and holding the position. You can increase the intensity of the side plank by increasing the length of time you are in the raised position and by raising the upper leg off the lower leg for an intense balance challenge.
Lunge Twist: For this move, grab a five-to 15-pound dumbbell (depending on what you normally use) with both hands. Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms straight out. Take a big step forward with your left foot and, tightening your abs, twist your torso to the left as you bend your knees and lower your body until both of your legs form 90-degree angles. Twist back to center, push off your left foot and stand back up. Do 15 reps on each side. Keep your elbows straight but not locked.