Are you looking for the ultimate workout to sculpt summer abs? Start now on these crunch-free moves designed to tone your midriff and you'll be flaunting a flat belly in no time.
Summer Abs Without The Crunches
The fastest way to a flatter stomach isn't doing hundreds of crunches. Rather, the key is to train a deep abdominal muscle that wraps around your midsection called the transversus abdominis (TA). Think of it as a sort of internal Spanx shapewear, smoothing your belly from the inside out. Your TA acts as a natural girdle, and it needs proper training to make your lower abs in particular look and feel flatter and sleeker.
“However you train your ab muscles is how they develop,” explains Linda LaRue, creator of the Crunchless Abs DVD series and a celebrity trainer in Los Angeles. LaRue says that doing standard crunches incorrectly can cause you to build your ab muscles outward. The trick to a flatter belly is “pulling your abs up and in as you work them from all angles.”
Before You Get Started
To get the most from these exercises (and your workout in general), follow these simple pointers from LaRue:
• Check your posture. Whether standing, lying or sitting, align your ears with shoulders and hips. Next, pull shoulders down and slightly lift breastbone. Feel for equal muscle balance between your front and back.
• Contract your pelvic floor. To help activate the TA, do a soft “Kegel” during each move by gently pulling your pelvic floor muscles-the ones you use to hold back urine when you need the bathroom-upward. (Bonus: Kegels help prevent or lessen incontinence.)
What You'll Need
• Equipment: A mat or bath towel, a hand towel and a one- to two-kilogram (three- to five-pound) dumbbell (optional).
• Warm-up: March in place or walk briskly for about three minutes.
• Repetitions: Begin with two sets of each exercise, working up to three sets as your abs get stronger. Perform each for the suggested reps or time (or less if you can't hold good form). You should be able to do two sets of three moves in about six minutes (about eight to 10 minutes including warm-up).
• How often: Do this routine three times a week. For a well-rounded program, add cardio and weights, and stretch after every workout.
1. Standing Cross Core
Works: deep abs, sides of abs, back, thighs and butt, as well as shoulders when done with dumbbell.
A. Hold a dumbbell in your right hand, arm slightly bent and held straight out to your right side. (This exercise can also be done without the dumbbell.) Place left hand on left hip and stand with feet hip width apart, shoulders relaxed, abs tight and pelvic floor pulled upward. Do a squat (as if you are about to sit into a low chair) and at the same time cross your right arm diagonally across your body until your right hand is in front of your left knee.
B. (Shown) As you return to standing, raise your right arm back across your body until you are reaching your right arm to your right side and up, with hand just above ear level and elbow slightly bent. With right arm still extended to your right side, also twist your torso right, looking slightly upward and to the right. Keep your feet flat on floor and pointing straight ahead.
C. Return to starting position; repeat. Do 10 reps; switch sides.
2. Crouching Tiger
Works: deep abs, inner thighs and arms.
A. Get onto your hands and knees with your knees aligned under hips and hands in line with your shoulders. Place a small rolled-up towel between your knees; squeeze the towel to hold it in place. Curl your toes under.
B. (Shown) Maintaining a long spine, draw your abs up and in, and pull up your pelvic floor. Avoid holding your breath. With elbows slightly bent and still squeezing the towel between your knees, lift your knees about two inches off the floor.
C. Hold for 15 to 20 seconds. Return your knees to the floor. Repeat.
3. Core Clock
Works: deep abs and back.
A. Lie face up with legs bent, feet on floor but heels lifted, and arms stretching to ceiling. Hold each end of a hand towel, pulling it taut.
B. Slowly rotate your torso so that both knees point toward your right side (with toes still on floor) as your extended arms reach just slightly toward your left side. Then move knees to left, with arms slightly right. Alternate 10 times total, then follow the instructions below if you feel strong enough (otherwise, repeat this move for another 10 reps).
C. (Shown) Continue same sequence as above but with feet off the floor, legs bent to 90 degrees and knees over hips. Alternate sides 10 times total. If you feel as if you're falling toward the side, you are twisting too much; lessen your range of motion.
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