Like the quest for the Holy Grail, many people are on a mission to improve their abs. Luckily, lost abs can be found again with a little bit of effort. These nine simple exercises and lifestyle tips really work.
NO. 1: IMPROVE YOUR POSTURE
Slouch and your stomach pooches. Straighten up, and your tummy looks trimmer without breaking a sweat! For better posture, align your ears over your shoulders, shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Keep your shoulders open like a shirt on a hanger, not one draped on a peg. Draw your navel to your spine. Not least, keep your weight even on the balls of your feet and your heels.
NO. 2: THINK WHOLE-BODY EXERCISE
Don't get so into your abs that you overlook your other muscles. You'll look better if all your core muscles are firm. That includes your glutes and back muscles. Pilates exercises are one way to work all of the core muscles, plus the arms and legs. A boot camp class or personal trainer can do the job, too. New to exercise? Start slowly. If you've got a health issue, check with your doctor first.
NO. 3: TRY THE CANOE TWIST
Stand upright, feet apart. Lock your fingers to create a solid grip. Exhale, and sweep the hands, arms, shoulders, and chest to the left, as if you were rowing a canoe. At the same time, lift the left knee up and to the right. Inhale and return to the starting position. Exhale and perform the movement to the right. Keep switching sides for 20 reps.
NO. 4: DO THE CAT KICK
Stand with feet together, arms out at your sides like airplane wings. Exhale, and lift the right leg forward and up. At the same time, sweep the arms forward at shoulder level and round your spine, like a cat. The navel should feel as though it's pressing toward the spine. Inhale, open back up, and return to the starting position. Repeat with your left leg. Switch between sides for 20 reps.
NO. 5: PRACTICE THE PILATES ZIP UP
Stand upright with heels together, toes slightly turned out. Bring your arms up, hands joined, below the chin. Exhale and press your arms down. Keep your hands and arms very close to the body. At the same time, lift your heels off the ground onto your tiptoes. Hold for two seconds at the "top,” inhale, and return to the starting position. The abs go "in and up" and the arms go down. Do 20 reps.
NO. 6: EXAMINE YOUR DIET
You can do ab exercises until the cows come home. But if you've got extra belly fat, your strong abs won't show. To budge the belly fat, you have to look at what you eat and how active you are. Eat less and move more, and make good-for-you food choices. Think lean protein and veggies, not greasy burgers and fries.
NO. 7: PROPS ARE FUN, BUT OPTIONAL
Stability balls and Bosu balls, straps and bands, and joining a gym can add zip to a workout. But you don't really need any of them for stronger abs. Sneak an ab workout into your daily life. Stand straight and breathe out, while you draw your navel to your spine. Try this when you walk, stand in line at the store, or chat at a party.
NO. 8: SET REALISTIC GOALS
Your favorite star's or athlete's abs are worth aiming for, but don't expect to mimic them. Your genes may play a role in your body's shape. That's no excuse to give up and head for the cookie jar, of course. Set realistic goals that are focused on your body, not on some perfect image. You'll wind up both firmer and happier.
NO. 9: TAKE THINGS SLOW
Changing your midriff is a matter of slow and steady progress, not fast fixes. Your road to flat abs may even have some setbacks (hello, holiday eating!). But if you give it time and keep at it, your middle really can go from flab to fab.