Why You Need Abs
Fab Abs = Better Health
University of Pennsylvania researchers tracked 164 women and found that those who lifted weights for an hour twice a week lost 15 percent more abdominal fat than those who didn't. They also cut their total body fat by almost four percent. (by GoodHousekeeping.com)
Cut Back on Sodium
Beat the Bloat
Your diet and exercise regimens work hand-in-hand so make sure you avoid belly-bloating foods on days you want a tight tummy. Here are two to know:
Sorbitol, a sugar found naturally in fruits, (apples, pears, peaches, prunes), as well as in artificial sweeteners, many dietetic foods, and sugar-free candies and gums.
Starches, including potatoes, corn, rice, bread, noodles and any products made from flour. These produce more gas as they are broken down in the large intestine.
More Belly Bloaters
Legumes have a complex structure of starch and protein and therefore can cause bloating and gas. Soaking and cooking them well helps to reduce bloating.
Fiber, both soluble and insoluble. If you are trying to increase your fiber intake through diet or supplements, do this slowly and ensure you are adequately hydrated. Increasing your intake too quickly can lead to bloating, cramping, and/or constipation.
Get Some Sleep
Sleepless nights mean stressful days, which can lead to emotional-eating binges. What's more, researchers from the University of Chicago Medical Center tracked 12 healthy males and found that those who got only four hours of rest at night had a 23 percent increase in appetite. So strive for at least seven hours of sleep a night. (by GoodHousekeeping.com)
Related: 10 Foods That Keep You Up at Night
Stress and Temperament
Getting riled raises levels of cortisol (a stress hormone) in your body, and that increase can cause you to gain weight. Plus, research suggests that the angrier you get and the more frequently you get angry the more likely you'll be to put on pounds around your waist. (Hostility also ups your risks of cardiovascular problems.) So the next time someone pushes your button, take 10 deep breaths and ask yourself, Is this really that big a deal? (by GoodHousekeeping.com)
See 52 quick and easy cool-down ideas in our Stress Buster.
Time Well Spent
Matthew McConaughey may have you thinking differently, but a good ab workout doesn't need to take long. "I trained Jennifer Aniston about three days a week, and we did no more than five minutes of abs each time, says Kathy Kaehler, trainer and author of Kathy Kaehler's Celebrity Workouts. "Check your form, don't use momentum, and focus on quality rather than quantity." (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 10 Shortcuts to Strong, Sexy Abs.
Rest and Recovery
Don't Forget Cardio
Half Hour of Power
To show off the abs of steel you've been building, 30 minutes of cardio gets you further than 30 minutes of crunches. To burn off the layer of fat that's hiding your muscles, ab-specific contractions just don't do the trick, says Len Kravitz, Ph.D., professor of exercise physiology at the University of New Mexico. Ab moves burn about two to six calories per minute, while cardio blasts 10 or 12. (by MarieClaire.com)
Maximize Your Results
Get twice the results in half the time: Slow down a little. Take four counts to come up and four counts to come back down. At the hardest part of each crunch, do five to 10 small pulses. You'll get the body you want faster by doing 10 slow repetitions instead of 20 fast ones. Moving slowly two counts up and two counts down allows you to use more precise form, which can stimulate your muscles better and make them stronger, says Rodney Corn of the National Academy of Sports Medicine. (The faster you go, the more likely you are to use momentum instead of your abs.) Your muscles should feel tired in 15 reps. (by MarieClaire.com)
Shake It Up
Get on the Ball
Keep your movements small: This isolates your abs and prevents other muscles from doing the work.
Speaking of small, check out 10 Shortcuts for Amazing Abs.
Work all of your ab muscles by lying on your back (knees bent, feet flat on the floor) and having a partner throw a medicine ball to you in different directions straight at you, to your left, to your right. Catch the ball by moving only your torso and arms. Toss the ball back to your partner. DO: Two sets of 20 repetitions, two to three times a week. (by MarieClaire.com)
Hanging Leg Raises
Don't Be So Fancy
The standard crunch can pack major benefits if done correctly. Contract your abs, while letting your head, upper back, and shoulders come off the floor all in one motion. Keep your face pointed to the ceiling, always moving toward the ceiling instead of your knees, being careful not to pull on your head with your hands. Hold and squeeze for a moment at the top, then slowly return to the starting position. (by MarieClaire.com)
Make Over Your Crunch
Your abs are just like your biceps to make them stronger and tighter, you don't need to necessarily do more reps. Try adding a three- to five-pound weight and place it behind your head or on your chest, then do one set of eight to 15 sit-ups, working up to more sets as you get stronger. (by MarieClaire.com)
Work On Posture
Balance out your exercises and posture by working on your back as well to make your abs look slimmer. Lie facedown on the floor, arms extended above your head. Use your back to lift your arms and legs a few inches off the floor. Release, then repeat. (by MarieClaire.com)
Try reverse crunches with a lift to slim your midsection: "Since skintight dresses show the pooch, I suggest doing a lot of reverse crunches with a lift," says Ramona Braganza, who's sculpted the lean bods of Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, and Jessica Biel. Lie on your back, knees pulled up to chest and hands under your butt to support your lower back. Uncurl legs straight out, keeping them six inches from the floor. (Don't let them touch the ground!) Lift legs straight up so that they're perpendicular to the floor and add a small lift of your butt. Curl legs back into the start position. Do three sets of 10. (by MarieClaire.com)
Bicycle Exercise for Abs
Lie on the floor with your fingertips behind your head. Bend your knees and raise your legs above your hips, calves parallel to the floor. Bring one elbow to the opposite knee while pressing the other leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Alternate sides. Beginner tip: Start with both feet on the floor. As you bring one elbow across, bring the opposite knee up to meet it, then put it back down and repeat on the other side. (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 7 Healthy Foods to Lose Weight
Lie on your back with your legs raised straight above your hips and your arms reaching to the ceiling. Simultaneously reach your fingertips toward your toes and press your feet toward the ceiling to lift your tailbone off the floor. Beginner tip: Instead of lifting your feet and hands together, alternate between lifting the upper body and the hips. (by MarieClaire.com)
See yourself a size smaller in our Virtual Weight Loss Simulator.
Lie on one side with your knees bent and your forearm on the floor. Keep your elbow in line with your shoulder. Press your weight into your elbow and lift your hips and upper body off the floor so you make a straight line from knee to head. Hold for as long as you can try 10 to 20 seconds at first; build up to a minute. Switch sides. As you get stronger, try straightening the arm, straightening the legs and then straightening both. (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 33 Foods to Help You Stay Young
Start by lying on your back with your hands laced behind your head and your legs straight up, perpendicular to your waist. Pull your abs down toward the floor and lift your head and shoulders up toward the ceiling. Then lower one leg down and bring your opposite shoulder toward that thigh. Alternate for 20 to 40 reps and you'll slip right into your skinny jeans! (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 33 Ways to Look Thin and Stay Slim
To work your vertical ab muscles, sit with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor and arms straight in front of you. Exhale and roll back until your lower back touches the ground, then stop. Inhale and roll back up. Repeat 15 times. Now exhale and roll back until your shoulder blades touch the ground, then stop. Inhale and roll back up. Repeat 15 times. (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 33 Days to Get a Better Butt
To work your horizontal ab muscles, lie on your back and bend your knees at an (almost) 90-degree angle with the floor, raising your feet slightly higher than your knees. Exhale, lift your butt, and roll back to your shoulder blades. Inhale and roll to your tailbone, then stop (don't let your butt touch the ground). Repeat 20 times. (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 7 Celebrity-Inspired Leg Exercises
To work your waist, grab a liter bottle of water and lie on your back with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle with the floor. Cradle your left hand behind your head. Now hold the water bottle in your right hand, lift your head and shoulders off the ground, and reach across your body, so the bottle is outside your left knee. "Pulse" 20 times. Switch sides and repeat. (by MarieClaire.com)
Trying to lose weight? Beware of these common weight-loss barriers.
To work your lower ab muscles, lie on your back, arms stretched straight over your head and legs fully extended and crossed in the air. Exhale and lift your tailbone, then slowly lower as you inhale (don't just drop resist on the way down). Repeat 30 times. (by MarieClaire.com)
To work your lower back, lie on your stomach, arms in front of you as if flying. Exhale and lift just your right arm and left leg as high as you can. Inhale and lower. Then switch, lifting your left arm and right leg. Alternate, doing 20 lifts on each side. Finally, lift both arms and legs 20 times. (by MarieClaire.com)
Related: 5 Best Exercises for Sexy Stems