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The Flat-Abs Formula

  • James Farrell

    Formula: Abs Three Ways

    Moves provided by Michele Olson, PhD, professor of exercise science at Auburn University at Montgomery and creator of the Perfect Legs, Glutes & Abs DVD.

    Do three-move mini circuits: Match a faceup ab exercise (your fave, whether it's bicycles or the Teaser — we know you have one) with either a facedown or side-lying move (like the Loaded Hip Dip) and a standing one (try the Upright Supercrunch).

    Upright Supercrunch

    Targets lats, abs, and obliques

    • Stand with feet hip-width apart, holding a 4- to 6-pound medicine ball overhead; lift right leg slightly behind you.
    • Engaging abs, hinge at waist to do a crunch as you bring right knee up toward chest and lower ball diagonally toward right hip.
    • Return to start. Do 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

    Bonus: This exercise works your lats (sides of back) 27 percent more than crunches.

    Watch this video

    Watch this move

  • James Farrell

    Loaded Hip Dip

    Targets deep abs and obliques

    • Lie on floor on your right side, bent right elbow on floor propping up torso and hips, feet stacked; with left hand, hold a 4- to 6-pound medicine ball firmly atop left hip.
    • Lift hips to get into side plank, body forming a straight line from head to toe.
    • Slowly lower right hip to briefly tap floor, then return to side plank.
    • Do 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.

    Bonus: This exercise works your deep abs 28 percent more than crunches!

  • James Farrell

    Formula: AMRAP

    Moves provided by Tony Horton, creator of the new P90X3 DVD series and author of The Big Picture.

    Cranking out "as many reps as possible" in one minute does not mean sacrificing good form — don't let momentum do the work for your ab muscles. Alternate the next two moves for a total of six minutes.

    Scissor Ball

    Targets deep abs and obliques

    • Sit on floor, knees bent, feet flat, grasping shins with hands.
    • Roll backward onto your back, knees tucked to chest.
    • Use abs to roll forward, releasing hands and straightening legs as you return to sitting upright so that you're balancing on butt with legs scissored apart, right leg higher than left; reach hands forward.
    • Hug knees to chest to return to start and repeat, this time scissoring legs so that left is higher than right.
    • Continue alternating for 1 minute.
  • James Farrell

    Sphinx Plank Crunch

    Targets back, deep abs, obliques, butt, and hips

    • Start on floor in plank position, balancing on forearms and toes.
    • Slowly bend right knee and bring out to side toward right elbow, touching it if possible. (Keep back and hips parallel to floor.)
    • Hold for 3 counts, then return to start. Switch sides and repeat.
    • Continue alternating for 1 minute.
  • James Farrell

    Formula: Firm and Burn

    Moves provided by Josh Fly, director of personal training for the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers in New York City.

    Alternate the next two moves with blasts of cardio, completing each pairing three or four times: After the Dancing Bug, roll over to do 30 seconds of mountain climbers; then after the Rolling Pin, do one minute of jumping jacks.

    Rolling Pin

    Targets deep abs, obliques, butt, and hamstrings

    • Start on floor in full plank position, balancing on palms with shins resting atop center of a stability ball.
    • Lift left leg a few inches off ball, then bend right knee in toward chest, rolling ball forward.
    • Straighten right leg again and repeat.
    • Do 10 reps. Switch sides and repeat.
    • MAKE IT EASIER: Keep both shins on ball as you roll it forward.
  • James Farrell

    Dancing Bug

    Targets abs and obliques

    • Lie faceup on floor with arms and legs extended up, palms and shins pressed into a stability ball.
    • Lower left arm and right leg toward floor, getting as close as you can without touching down. Return to start, then lower right arm and left leg.
    • Do 25 to 30 reps, alternating sides.
  • James Farrell

    Formula: Supersets

    Moves provided by Jackie Warner, celebrity trainer and author of This Is Why You're Fat.

    Do one set of the next two moves back-to-back, then rest one minute and repeat. Do three supersets total.

    Reverse Crunch

    Targets deep abs

    • Lie faceup on floor, hands behind head, elbows out to sides; bend knees 90 degrees and lift feet so that shins are parallel to floor.
    • Crunch up as you bring knees in to chest to form a tight ball, elbows pointing forward (hands lightly touching head — no tugging).
    • Lower torso and bent legs simultaneously, quickly tapping heels to floor (stop short of laying head and shoulders down completely), then return to tuck position. Do 20 reps.
  • James Farrell


    Targets deep abs and obliques

    • Start on floor in side plank position, balancing on left palm and side of left foot with hips and legs stacked; extend right arm toward ceiling.
    • Slowly lower right arm and bring it under rib cage, reaching hand behind you; rotate torso slightly as you reach. Return to start.
    • Do 10 reps, switch sides and repeat.
    • MAKE IT EASIER: Modify side plank so that you balance on forearm and feet are staggered on floor.

    Originally published in FITNESS Magazine, March 2014