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3 Steps to Rock-Hard Abs


Minute Melters

Best Ab Exercises for a Flat Belly

While sprints are proven ab fat-melters, more recent research has shown that you don't have to go all out to benefit — you just have to keep it up a little longer. For this workout, warm up for about five minutes, then pick it up to an intensity of about a seven or eight. (Think of a one to 10 scale, with one being “sitting on the couch” to 10 being “I'm running for my life!” At this mid-range intensity, you should be able to say a few words, but not recite the Pledge of Allegiance.) Keep your pace up for one minute, then slow down for one minute. Start with five cycles of a minute hard/minute easy (10 minutes) and work up to 10 cycles (20 minutes). Finish with a few minutes of easy cardio.

Play Ball

Best Ab Exercises for a Flat Belly - MedHelp

This activity is way more fun than running on the treadmill — and may be better for you! What is it? Soccer! Exercises used in soccer, such as dribbling, are considered aerobic (oxygen-using) interval training. And since high-intensity intermittent exercise (HIIE) has been linked to reductions in body fat, you may find that kicking the ball around with a group of friends may help you lose those inches around your belly. Ready to start playing? First, check in with your healthcare provider. If he or she gives you the thumbs-up, ask your local YMCA or community center about adult leagues, or search for teams at  




Step 3: Tighten and Tone

Finally, it's time for the main event: Sculpting those rock hard abs themselves. Still, standard-issue crunches aren't the most effective exercise. The best moves — as proven by scientists who place EMG electrodes onto exercisers to actually measure the muscle activity — focus on balancing and stabilizing your torso and legs rather than flexing your spine up and down. In fact, many of the most effective exercises hail from Pilates, the mind-body workout which focuses on core control. For the three moves that follow, focus on performing slow, controlled movements — no momentum allowed.

Pilates Roll-Up

Best Ab Exercises for a Flat Belly - MedHelp

Lie flat on your back on a mat or carpeted floor, arms extended overhead and legs stretched forward. Lift your arms straight up, perpendicular to the floor, then lift your head and shoulders and slowly peel your spine up and over your hips, arms reaching toward your toes. Slowly reverse back to start. Repeat 10 times.




Leg-Up Crunch

Best Ab Exercises for a Flat Belly - MedHelp

Lie flat on your back on a mat or carpeted floor, legs extended straight up toward the ceiling and elbows bent, fingertips gently touching the back of your head. Engage your abs and lift your torso toward your knees. Start with 10 reps, and work up to three sets of 10.





Criss Cross

Best Ab Exercises for a Flat Belly - MedHelp

Lie on your back on a mat or carpeted floor, hips and knees bent to 90 degrees with your shins parallel to the floor and toes pointed. Bend your elbows to the sides and gently touch your fingertips to the back of your head. Engage your abs and lift your head and shoulders off the floor, then rotate, bringing your right underarm toward your left knee. Simultaneously straighten and extend your right leg forward at about a 45-degree angle. Return to start, then repeat to the opposite side. Start with 10 reps on each side, and work up to three sets of 10.



Published on July 25, 2011. Updated on December 14, 2015.

Natalie is a health and fitness writer, runner, and ACE-certified personal trainer based in Syracuse, New York. 

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