Source: Web exclusive, March 2008
Is your belly more rippled than ripped? More of a two-four than a six pack? If so, tackle that belly fat every other day with this 15-minute exercise plan, which targets the muscles that support the spine as well as the abs. ‘Flat abs are virtually impossible to achieve without acquiring core strength’and that means hitting all key abdominal muscles’both back and front’in different ways,’ explains Maureen Hagan, a fitness expert and physiotherapist in London, Ont.
A taut midsection not only looks hot, it goes a long way to reducing your likelihood of heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. (If your waist currently measures more than 88 centimetres’or 35 inches’you’re at increased risk, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.) Research shows that excess belly fat can even disrupt the normal balance and functioning of certain hormones. So do this fitness plan every other day, add cardio three to five times a week, eat well and say good-bye to belly bulge, forever.
Flat abs diamond leg crunch
- Lie on your back, with your hands behind your head for support.
- Bend your knees and let them flop toward the floor, the soles of your feet pressed against each other (so your legs form a diamond shape).
- Slowly raise your shoulders off the ground, bringing your ribcage towards your pelvis.
- Exhale and pull your navel to your spine.
- Return to the start position. Do two to three sets of 15 repetitions.
TIP: Keep your elbows back as you crunch; you shouldn’t see them move forward.
Flat abs arm/leg lift
- Lie on your back with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor and arms extended over your head on the floor.
- Bend your right knee toward your chest and, at the same time, raise your shoulders off the floor and bring your left arm over your head, reaching toward your right knee.
- Exhale as you reach, pulling your navel into your spine.
- Return both your arm and leg to the start position. Repeat 10 times on same side then switch sides. Do two to three sets.
Flat abs ball pass
- Lie on your back holding a stability ball or pillow over your head, knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Bring the ball or pillow in front of you (above your chest) and lift your shoulders off the floor, exhaling as you pull your navel into your spine. At the same time, lift your feet off the ground, knees bent at 90°, exhaling as you lift knees up.
- Place (or pass) the ball or pillow between your knees or feet and touch your heels to the ground briefly before bringing it back with your feet and passing it back into your hands.
- Return to the start position. As arms are lowered, slowly lower heels to the ground. That’s one rep ‘ do eight to 10.
TIP: Keep movement slow and controlled, while keeping your spine close to the floor.
Flat abs scissors
1. Lie on your back with legs extended in the air, palms flat on the ground.
2. Bend your knees slightly and bring your legs to a 45° angle off the floor.
3. Cross your right leg over your left, then your left one over the right. Keep abs pulled in and exhale each time legs cross.
4. Repeat sequence eight to 10 times.
TIP: If you’re looking for more of a challenge, extend your legs further as you crisscross them.
Flat abs bicycle
- Lie on your back, legs extended on the floor, with your hands behind your head for support.
- Lift your left leg off the floor and bend your knee, bringing it toward your chest.
- Raise your shoulders off the floor and aim your right elbow toward your bent left leg. As you try to connect elbow with knee, squeeze your right side and hold for a count of three.
- Lower to starting position and repeat on the other side, again pausing for a count of three. Aim for 10 reps on each side.
TIP: To make it more challenging, keep legs off the ground throughout reps.
Flat abs reverse curl
- Lie on your back, arms at sides.
- Pull knees to the chest with the soles of your feet facing the ceiling.
- Exhale as you draw knees to chest, lifting hips off the ground and punching heels up towards the ceiling.
- Return to the start position. Repeat sequence 15 times.
TIP: If you want to add variety, twist your legs slightly to the side at the top of the movement.
Flat abs superman
- Lie facedown on the floor, left arm extended, right hand on the floor with elbow bent near your shoulder.
- Lift your left arm and right leg off the floor about two inches, keeping your pelvis on the floor while tightening your butt and keeping your navel pulled up, away from the floor.
- Exhale as you lift, pause as you breath in, exhale as you lower. Then repeat with your right arm and left leg. Do 10 reps on each side.
TIP: Focus your eyes on a spot just ahead on the floor and think about lengthening your body as you raise your arm and leg.
Flat abs tummy twist
- Sit up on the floor with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, holding a medicine ball (or pillow) in front of you.
- Exhale, leaning back slightly.
- While pulling abs in to the spine, twist your torso to the side reaching over to briefly touch the ball or pillow towards the ground. (Keep abs pulled in so that only the upper body twists; everything below the waist is static.)
- Return to the start position and go over to the other side. Do 10 reps, alternating sides.
TIP: Keep your eyes on the ball or pillow as you twist.
Bonus! 60-second tummy-toning plank
Our expert, Maureen Hagan, never tires of this move to combat belly fat. Says Hagan: ‘It takes strength and endurance. And it’s also great for anyone with a low back problem, who may not be able to perform the more traditional ab exercises.’
- Lie facedown, resting on your forearms and elbows.
- Lift your hips so you are balancing on your knees (or toes) and forearms. Pull abs in, squeezing butt, staying straight as a board (no slumping).
- Hold your own body weight for 15 seconds to start. Progress to 60 seconds or increase the difficulty of exercise by changing to a more advanced position, for example, resting on toes instead of knees.
Bonus! Anytime tummy toner
- Sit in a chair at your desk and suck in your abs’ imagine that your navel is kissing your spine. This engages the deep abdominal muscles’the ones you feel when you cough’and the ones that stabilize your spine.
- Hold for the length of an exhale, breathe in, release, then repeat for 30 seconds to one minute.
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