You may have heard of Pilates, but you may not realize how effective it is on building core stability. Inner IDEA says Pilates ab exercises are more effective than the boring crunches you’ve probably been doing. One of the best is the roll-up, which works through a fuller range of motion than many ab exercises. Lie on the floor with your arms overhead and your legs extended with heels on the floor. Simultaneously raise your arms and lift your torso, rolling your body to a sitting position without letting your heels come off the floor. Reach your hands toward your toes, then reverse the motion by rolling back. Move slowly and avoid using momentum to come up. Roll-up eight to 10 times.
Planks look easy enough, but they provide a lot of muscle burn for the buck. Plus, there are so many variations that you’ll never get bored. The basic plank is a pushup position that you hold for 15 to 60 seconds. The key is to keep your back and hips straight. If your belly drops or your behind pokes up, you’re doing it wrong. Another popular variation is to have your forearms on the floor instead of your hands. If these positions are difficult, modify them by dropping your knees to the floor, but don’t allow a bend in the hips.
3 Captain’s Chair
Get rid of the muffin top hanging over your waistband using a captain’s chair. The American Council of Exercise says this exercise is No. 1 for the obliques — the muscles running along your sides that are responsible for twisting and bending. It’s also No. 2 for the rectus abdominus, making the captain’s chair a top ab exercise. The captain’s chair is easy to use. Start by standing on the foot rests with your back pressed against the back pad. Hold on to the handles with your hands, letting your forearms rest on the arm pads. Take your feet off the foot rests and hang by your forearms. Slowly lift your knees up, hold for a beat and lower — but don’t put them on the foot rests. Do a set of 12 to 15 lifts, then rest.
2 Bicycle Crunches
The bicycle crunch has stood the test of time—because it works. In fact, it’s ranked No. 1 for strengthening the rectus abdominus—the slab of muscle on the front of your body—according to the American Council on Exercise. The bicycle crunch requires little room and no equipment, and it can be modified depending on your abdominal strength. Start by lying on the floor face up. Lace your hands behind your head and lift your head and shoulders off the floor. Begin pedaling your feet and twisting your torso as if you were trying to touch your elbow to the pulled-in knee. If you’re a beginner or have back issues, pedal your feet toward the ceiling. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to pedal your legs parallel to the floor. Crank out 12 to 15 repetitions.
Ab exercises will tone the muscle, but if you carry belly fat, your sculpted muscles will remain hidden. Rowing will burn away the pudge and tone your abs. It takes a little coordination and timing to maximize the rowing machine, but done correctly, rowing is one of the best non-impact, total body workouts you can get. Start in the catch phase by sitting on the pad with your feet on the foot rests. Your knees are bent as you reach for the handles. During the drive phase, extend your legs by pushing back. Keep the arms straight until your legs are nearly extended, then pull the handles toward your upper stomach. Return to the start position by extending the hands, bending the knees and leaning forward until you’re back in the catch phase. Don’t have a rowing machine? Any exercise that gets your heart rate up for 30 to 60 minutes will burn fat.