You know that too much belly fat is bad, because it can increase the risk of cancer and heart disease. So why not team up with your partner or a friend and get double the workout benefits? Exercising as a duo can motivate you to stick with it and to work more intensely than you would solo.
‘Treat it like a date,’ advises Debbie Jacques, a personal trainer who works with couples at Sweat Co. Workout Studios in Vancouver. ‘Training with a supportive partner can make you feel less intimidated if you’re shy about exercise.’ Pairing up can also make for a more enduring relationship. Psychologists at Stony Brook University in New York State found that couples who add novelty to a marriage’researchers bound pairs together, then asked them to push a foam roller with their heads’find their relationship more satisfying than those who stick with humdrum activities. (And don’t worry if you’re not in a relationship’the plan works just as well with any workout partner.)
To get you and your partner exercising together, we designed this four-week ab-strengthening program. It targets your core muscles in a variety of ways for the best results possible. Weeks One & Two were developed by Anthony Carey, a corrective exercise specialist in San Diego, Calif., and author of The Pain-Free Program, while Weeks Three & Four were developed with advice from Debbie Jacques.
Of course, toning alone won’t burn away belly fat. To do that, you’ve got to also do at least 30 minutes of moderate cardio exercise three times a week, and eat a healthy diet. But your buffed abs will make your tummy appear flatter and more shapely, as well as relieve back pain and help prevent injury. Read on to find out how to get started, then click through to view the exercises.
What you need
An exercise mat each. For two of these moves, you will need an object you can safely pass back and forth, such as a stuffed toy, a soccer ball or, for a more intensive workout, a five- to 10-pound (two- to five-kilogram) medicine ball. You’ll also need a large space to move around in, such as your living room, basement or even your backyard.
Walk briskly around the block or march on the spot for three to five minutes. Then stand in place with your knees slightly bent and abs tight (see directions below). Gently and slowly twist side to side from the waist; repeat 10 times in each direction.
To correctly contract your abs, breathe normally and imagine tightening your entire waistline and abdominal area as if it were in a snug-fitting girdle, Spanx underwear or tight jeans. Brace your abs, don’t suck them in.
What to do
Try Weeks One & Two and then Weeks Three & Four. Schedule three workouts per week on non-consecutive days. Do two sets of each exercise. Once mastered, daily sessions take about 10 minutes (15 with warm-up). After four weeks, alternate between the two plans, working up to three sets per exercise. After six to eight weeks, add new ab exercises to keep seeing results.
These moves were designed for partners, but you can easily go it alone (except for the Wheelbarrow). Modify moves that require passes or tosses by holding the object throughout the exercise (as in the Back-to-Back Overhead and Twisting Hand-offs) or, in the V-Sit Ball Tosses, throw the ball into the air and catch it yourself.
Ready to get started? Check out our 8 ab exercises for partners.
This article was originally titled "Partner Up for Sexy Abs," in the May 2009 issue of Best Health. Subscribe today to get the full Best Health experience’and never miss an issue!’and make sure to check out what’s new in the latest issue of Best Health.