4 Workouts to Sculpt Your Abs

Surprise! Good ol' crunches are one of the fastest ways to firm your midsection. (Hate crunches? Bear with us.) Thanks to 5 decades of research and nearly 90 studies, scientists have zeroed in on the best moves to flatten your belly. The secret is to really fatigue your abs—not an easy task, because they're used to working all day to keep you standing tall. But we created a routine that, when combined with regular cardio, does it in just four moves.

We know for sure because we had nearly a dozen women road-test the program as part of our Prevention Fitness Lab. "I couldn't believe the difference a few days made," says Gwen Hoover, 48, of Fogelsville, PA, who whittled more than 2 inches off her middle, lost 14 percent of her belly fat, and dropped nearly 4 pounds in just 1 week.

Even our slimmest testers saw impressive results. At 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, Rachelle Vander Schaaf, 49, of Macungie, PA, wasn't expecting to see a big change, but she shaved more than 3 inches off her belly—without dieting. You can too. Start now and show off an all-around leaner belly for the rest of the summer season.


Program at a Glance

3 DAYS A WEEK
Do the four-move Slim Belly routine on 3 nonconsecutive days to tone your midsection.

5 DAYS A WEEK
Do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, or bike riding, to burn off belly fat. You should be breathing hard but still able to talk in short sentences.

EVERY DAY
Watch portions and fill up on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats to maximize results. Aim for 1,600 to 1,800 calories spread evenly throughout the day.


SAMPLE WORKOUT SCHEDULE

DAY: Activity

MON: Abs and Cardio
TUE: Cardio
WED: Rest
THU: Abs and Cardio
FRI: Rest
SAT: Abs and Cardio
SUN: Cardio

Slim Belly Workout


Do 3 sets of each move, performing as many reps (1 second up, 1 second down) as possible until you feel a burning sensation in the muscles you're working or you can no longer maintain proper form. rest 15 seconds between sets. You'll likely be able to do more reps during earlier sets and exercises—and that's okay. after you can do 50 reps or hold a plank for 2 minutes for most sets, try the harder variations, change the order of the exercises, or do the moves after another type of workout.

1. Hipless Crunch




This variation better targets abs by preventing hips and upper body from helping you lift. Lie on back with legs lifted and bent, calves parallel to floor, and feet relaxed. Cross arms over chest with hands on shoulders. Contract abdominal muscles and lift head, shoulders, and upper back about 30 degrees off floor. Lower without touching head to floor. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you lower. *Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 25 reps per set.

MAKE IT EASIER
Rest calves on a chair and extend arms down at sides.

MAKE IT HARDER
Extend legs straight up.

TIPS
Don't pull chin toward chest.
Focus on abs doing the work; imagine sliding rib cage toward hips.

STOP WHEN...
You start pulling or jerking up with head, neck, or shoulders.
You can't keep neck or shoulders relaxed.

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