We have all seen countless ads for exercise programs that promise a “flat belly.” Unfortunately, the promise of a flatter abdomen misses the mark when it comes to a fit mid-section, which functions to support your spine and promote good posture, among other things. In fact, upon further consideration, a flat belly isn’t really what most of us desire because it doesn’t account for a healthy core and the muscular development that goes along with it. An effective workout program for the mid-section consists of a targeted approach for all of the muscles surrounding the trunk and results in defined, functionally appropriate core musculature. When combined with a balanced diet and a comprehensive fitness plan, the following exercises provide a multi-directional strategy for working the muscles of abdomen and back, which will give you the waist you both want and need. Perform these moves for 10 to 16 repetitions each, three times a week.
Target: Anterior (Front) Torso
Place your hands under your glutes with your palms facing down. Keeping your legs straight, slowly raise your legs perpendicular to the floor then slowly lower your legs to the start position.
Focus on keeping your spine stable by pressing down the lower back toward the ground. If this exercise is too challenging, keep the knees bent throughout the movement.
Stability Ball Pass
Lying face up on the floor, hold a stability ball above the chest in both hands with the arms extended. Bend the knees and hips 90°, keep the feet lifted and feel your lower back firmly pressed into the floor. Raise the ball behind the head while extending the legs out to a 45° angle, still keeping the low back in contact with the floor. Lift the head, neck and shoulders off the floor as you reach with the ball to place it between the legs. With the ball trapped between the legs, extend your legs away from the body while reaching the hands overhead. Repeat this combination, passing the ball back and forth between the hands and legs. If this is too challenging, keep the knees above the hips and do not allow them to move as you perform the exercise with the upper body only.
Target: Obliques (Sides)
Lie on one side with the bottom knee bent 90°, the top leg completely straight and the bottom arm reaching out in front of you. Extend the top arm overhead to touch the floor. You are essentially balancing on one side of your body. Keeping the top arm and top leg straight, flex at the waist and hips and touch the hand and foot together above the body. To complete this movement, you will have to push down into the bottom arm to help stabilize yourself on the floor, so that you end up balancing on the bottom hip. If this is too challenging, bend the elbow and knee of the top arm and leg to touch the elbow to the thigh, and only flex at the waist enough to perform a side crunch. Repeat on the other side.
Target: Posterior (Back) Torso
Lie facedown with the legs together and the arms out in a T, palms facing down. Slowly lift your head, legs and arms several inches, then bring your hands together in front of you as you separate the legs into a wide V. Keep the arms and legs raised the entire time. This movement mimics a jumping jack while lying on your abdomen. If this is too challenging, place the legs about shoulder-width apart and keep the thighs touching the floor the entire time. Only lift the upper body to perform the movement.
Stability Ball Bridge
Lie face up on the floor with the legs extended, arms at the sides and heels shoulder-width apart on top of a stability ball. Slowly raise the hips toward the ceiling while rolling through the low back and mid-spine. Hold for two seconds at the top and then slowly lower the hips to the floor while rolling through the middle and lower back.
Target: Whole Torso
Begin in a full push-up plank position with the wrists below the shoulders, legs extended, toes tucked under and the abs engaged. Lift your right arm toward the ceiling, rotating the entire body to the right; keep the hips, legs and feet stacked. Hold for two seconds and then return to the starting position. Repeat on the left side. If this is too challenging, perform the rolling plank on the hands and knees.