Bikini season beckons – are you ready to bare your belly at the beach? A toned, taut midsection is something we all covet, especially as summer gets closer, but it’s not always easy to achieve. To help you on your quest to get summer-ready, we put together some basic but trusted ab exercises aimed at toning, tightening and strengthening just in time for beach season.
Expert ab-flattening advice
We asked Manning Sumner, personal fitness trainer and owner of Legacy Fit, for his favorite exercises for flatter abs. He tells us the following are his top choices because to do the movements properly, your core needs to be engaged. That means no cheating. “There is no room for cheating or getting around working the proper muscle groups with these,” he says.
Make a note
Tone your tummy with these five ab-flatteners, but don’t discount diet in your quest for a bikini-ready body. “If you don’t have and maintain proper nutrition, then all of this will only help to strengthen your core – but it won’t flatten anything,” warns Sumner. His go-to nutrition tips: Stay hydrated, eat small, frequent meals throughout the day, and avoid eating four hours before bed.
Lie flat on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Place hands (in fists) on the middle of your thighs. As you start your crunch, look straight up and slide your knuckles up your thighs toward your knees, stopping right at the bottom of the knee cap. Hold for a breath, then slowly lower yourself back to the starting position, always maintaining constant tension in your abs. Aim for two sets of 15 slow crunches.
Get in a perfect push-up position. Hands should be shoulder-width apart, maintaining a flat back and hips at a level where you feel your abs are engaged. Hold for one minute, working your way up to two. This pose works your entire core, and while we may not be smiling through this one, we know it’s working because we feel its ab-flattening power.
Sit down with your feet up and hands extended over your head. Making sure your core is engaged (and you’re not relying on your lower back to do the work), hold for one minute, working your way up to two. This is a great one to do in front of the TV.
Lie flat on your back with hands by your side. Sit up slightly to where you just take the arch out of your back and your abs are contracted. Lift your legs six inches off the ground (or as high as you can) and move them up and down slightly in a flutter motion. Start with as many as you can do with perfect form. It may only be 20 seconds to start, but work your way up to more.
Choose something heavy (about 30 to 50 pounds, depending on your overall strength), such as a sandbag or medicine ball. Hold it right under your chin and power walk 50 to 100 big steps while keeping your abs tight the whole time. You’ll get your heart rate up and tone your midsection — it’s a win-win.