Your Flat-Abs Handbook
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Your Flat-Abs Handbook

Try our best abdominal workout yet: 7 innovative moves to help whittle your middle.

Get Firm, Sleek Abs

If you're still struggling with belly bulge, it's time to stand up to flab -- literally. "Taking your ab routine off the floor works more of your core muscles because you have a greater range of motion," says Story Elizabeth Maley, creator of the Liquid Strength System class at Crunch Fitness. Plus, by supporting your body weight while maintaining your balance, you'll sculpt your muscles faster. Maley's plan takes just 20 minutes and can be done two or three times per week. Combine it with her abs-blasting cardio routine, and within three weeks your abs will be firm and fab.

1. The Kayak

Fitness Focus: abs, lower back, obliques, shoulders

  • Stand with right foot pointing forward, left foot directly behind it with left toe touching right heel, knees slightly bent.
  • Lightly hold a 3-pound dumbbell in each hand, elbows bent 90 degrees, palms down (as if holding a kayak paddle).
  • Bring left elbow toward left hip and right elbow to shoulder height. Keep body centered.
  • Switch sides, bringing right elbow to hip and left elbow to shoulder.
  • Do 20 reps, alternating sides. Move in a flowing motion as if you're rowing; don't rest at center.
  • Switch feet and repeat.

2. Closing the Castle Door

Fitness Focus: abs, lower back, obliques, glutes

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart.
  • Bend left elbow 90 degrees with upper arm next to left side, palm facing right.
  • Bring right elbow to shoulder height with palm also facing right; bring thumbs to touch to the right of chest.
  • Engage your core and imagine you're trying to press against a heavy door toward the right; keep hands close to your right shoulder.
  • Hold for 1 count, then repeat on the opposite side in one fluid motion to complete the rep.
  • Do 10 reps.

3. The Rings

Fitness Focus: abs, lower back, chest, shoulders, triceps

  • Roll up a mat, resting the base of your palms on top with fingers pointing forward, arms at sides.
  • Bend your knees slightly wider than 90 degrees, heels resting on the floor 6 inches apart.
  • Straighten your arms and lift your butt off the floor, keeping shoulders down.
  • Bring chin forward toward knees as you push your hips and butt behind your arms.
  • Hold for 2 counts, rest for 1.
  • Aim for 30 reps.

4a. Liquid Strength Plank

Fitness Focus: abs, lower back, chest, shoulders, triceps

  • Come into plank pose with your hands slightly behind shoulders; keep most of your body weight in your arms.

4b. Liquid Strength Plank

  • Bring your toes 6 inches closer to your hands so your knees are bent just above the floor.
  • Curl your pelvis and chin toward each other; hold for 30 seconds.
  • Do 3 reps; rest knees on the floor for 4 seconds between reps.

5. Cross-Country Abs

Fitness Focus: abs, lower back, obliques, arms, glutes

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent.
  • Hold a 3-pound dumbbell in each hand, arms at sides.
  • Twist your upper body and head to the right.
  • Bring your right arm straight behind you, left arm in front until it's in line with your left shoulder and thigh, rotating your chest toward the ceiling as you go while keeping hips still.
  • Hold for 5 seconds; return to center and repeat on the opposite side to complete the rep, moving arms in a cross-country skiing motion.
  • Do 12 to 15 reps.

6. The Sling

Fitness Focus: abs, lower back, obliques, chest

  • Stand with feet together, knees bent 45 degrees.
  • Hold a 3-pound dumbbell with one end in each hand in front of your legs.
  • Twist your rib cage to your left side, letting your head follow (keep chin aligned with the weight); simultaneously push knees to the right.
  • Hold for 15 seconds; repeat on other side.
  • Do 10 reps per side.

7. Abs Squat

Fitness Focus: abs, glutes

  • Stand with feet hip-width apart; loosely grip 3-pound dumbbells with elbows bent and hold weights beside your shoulders, palms up.
  • Tilt your pelvis forward while bending knees slightly; push your chest toward the ceiling, keeping shoulders down.
  • Concentrate on squeezing glutes and contracting abs. Hold for 30 seconds.
  • Do 5 reps.

Cardio for Killer Abs

To get show-off abs fast, Story Elizabeth Maley recommends doing at least three 30-minute cardio sessions per week, choosing activities that specifically target core muscles. Her top picks:

Best machines (500 to 600 calories an hour): Treadmill (run/walk hills), elliptical trainer with movable handles and rowing machine. Do 10 minutes of each machine, moving quickly from one exercise to the next so your core muscles are constantly challenged.

Best classes (350 to 650 calories an hour): Indoor group cycling, kickboxing, anything core board- or Bosu-based and most dance classes.

Best outdoor activities (300 to 450 calories an hour): Tennis, kayaking, volleyball, and surfing.

Originally published in Fitness magazine, June 2005.