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The 9 Most Effective Ways to Get Your Best Body

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Firm Up Abs

Goal: Firm up your abs

Winning Strategy: Pilates mixed with traditional ab exercises

Researcher: Michele S. Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University, Montgomery, Alabama

You don't need to do hundreds of crunches to get a toned, tight tummy. For best results, you're better off doing fewer reps of a greater variety of moves, says Olson. And your repertoire should definitely include some Pilates-based exercises to fully target all your abs. The multidimensional moves require 25 percent more energy than the standard crunch, according to Olson's research, so you'll spend less time toning. Three key moves to keep in your routine:

Double-Leg Stretch: Lie with knees bent toward chest, hands on shins. Curl your head, neck, and the back of your shoulders off the floor. Inhale as you extend arms up over forehead and lift legs out 45 degrees. Exhale and circle arms down, drawing knees back in toward chest. Repeat 8 times.

Oblique Crunch with Band: Fasten a resistance band to a low, secure object (like a heavy piece of furniture). Lie behind the band with hands behind head, pulling the band taut with your right hand; keep knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Lift head, neck and shoulders off the mat, bringing your right shoulder toward your left knee. Lower and repeat 20 times; move the band to the left hand and repeat on the other side.

Side Bridge: Lie on right side, legs stacked and feet on a step, elbow bent and aligned under shoulders. Keeping your weight on your right arm and bottom foot, lift your hips off the floor and straighten your body to form one long line. Hold for 2 seconds and lower. Repeat 10 times; switch sides.

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