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December 31, 2009

Sexy, Strong Abs: The Easy Way!

A flat stomach can be yours: Our four-part guide to what to eat, drink, and do will have you bikini-ready in no time.

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EAT YOUR WAY TO A FLAT STOMACH

Cut back on low-carb snacks.
Many bars and candies contain glycerin or sugar alcohols, which can cause bloating because your body can't fully digest them, says Leslie Bonci, R.D., at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Run one mile less.
"Your body can interpret excessive exercise as stress, causing you to retain fluid and become constipated," says Diana Taylor, R.N., Ph.D., at the University of California-San Francisco Center for Reproductive Health. But moderate exercise, such as yoga or walking, can speed things through your system and help nix the problem.

Watch it with condiments.
Condiments can be high in salt, leaving you bloated and puffy. A quarter cup of ketchup gives you a third of a day's sodium allotment; a tablespoon of soy sauce holds nearly half a day's worth.

Push the potassium.
This natural diuretic can counteract the belly-bulging effects of extra salt. Find it in tomatoes, bananas, salmon, almonds, and cherries.

Have more H2O.
Drinking water makes you retain less water by carrying bloat-causing elements such as salt out of your body.

4 AB WORKOUTS THAT REALLY WORK

Get a sexy, sleek, and healthy stomach with the best gut-strengtheners of all time. The first three work all your ab muscles at once; the fourth slims and strengthens your sides. Add one or more of these moves to your ab routine every time and say hello to a new bikini

Standard Crunch
Lie with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, fingertips lightly touching behind your head, elbows out to the sides. Contract your abs and let your head, upper back, and shoulders come off the floor. Keep your chin one fist's width from your chest. Hold and squeeze for a moment at the top, then slowly return to the starting position.
Tip: Don't pull your head with your hands! Imagine a rope pulling your body up from your sternum.

Bicycle
Lie on the floor with your fingertips behind your head. Bend your knees and raise your legs above your hips, calves parallel to the floor. Bring one elbow to the opposite knee while pressing the other leg away from your body at a 45-degree angle. Alternate sides.
Beginner tip: Start with both feet on the floor. As you bring one elbow across, bring the opposite knee up to meet it, then put it back down and repeat on the other side.

Marine Crunch
Lie on your back with your legs raised straight above your hips and your arms reaching to the ceiling. Simultaneously reach your fingertips toward your toes and press your feet toward the ceiling to lift your tailbone off the floor.
Beginner tip: Instead of lifting your feet and hands together, alternate between lifting the upper body and the hips.

Side Plank
Lie on one side with your knees bent and your forearm on the floor. Keep your elbow in line with your shoulder. Press your weight into your elbow and lift your hips and upper body off the floor so you make a straight line from knee to head. Hold for as long as you can — try 10 to 20 seconds at first; build up to a minute. Switch sides. As you get stronger, try straightening the arm, straightening the legs and then straightening both.

6 AB MYTHS THAT MAKE YOU FLABBY

1. Lie: To get rock-hard, you have to work your abs every day.
Why: Abs need rest and recovery: It's only during rest that your muscles build. "Three to five days a week of consistent, dedicated abdominal training should get you strong, sleek abs," says Kathy Kaehler, trainer and author of Kathy Kaehler's Celebrity Workouts.

2. Lie: A good ab workout takes half an hour.
Why: "If it takes you that long to feel them working, you're doing something wrong," says Kaehler. "I trained Jennifer Aniston about three days a week, and we did no more than five minutes of abs each time." Check your form, don't use momentum and focus on quality rather than quantity.

3. Lie: Super-slow crunches make you stronger.
Why: Taking as much as a minute per crunch doesn't make you stronger than regular crunches do. In fact, ultra-slow ab work is less effective. Ideally, your workout should help you do everything better, from kickboxing to picking up a suitcase — neither of which you do in slo-mo.

4. Lie: The best time to train your abs is at the end of your workout.
Why: "It makes no physiological difference when you train abs, it only matters that you do it consistently," says abs researcher and physical therapist Gilbert Willett, M.S., associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. So the best time to work them is simply whenever you're most likely to do it. "But if you do abs at the beginning of your workout, make sure you warm up first. Getting blood moving prevents many types of injuries during a workout."

5. Lie: You can't get a six-pack by doing Pilates.
Why: "Pilates exercises your core, so if you practice it regularly and combine it with diet and cardio, it can give you a six-pack," says Kimberly Lyons, a personal trainer in L.A. But Pilates isn't a six-pack guarantee. "How your abs look has a lot to do with your genes, how lean you are, how long your torso is, and how tall you are."

6. Lie: You won't get firm without a weight machine.
Why: You don't need weights to build sleek and sexy abs, although some competitive athletes do use them to build extra strength. "Many weighted ab machines aren't designed for women," says Lyons. "If you don't fit into the machine properly, you might stress your body in the wrong spot." Her advice: Stick to the floor — it's cheap, effective, and available everywhere.

GET TWICE THE RESULTS (IN HALF THE TIME)
Loi Jordon, instructor and trainer at Equinox Fitness Centers in New York City, spills the secrets:

Slow down a little: Take four counts to come up and four counts to come back down. At the hardest part of each crunch, do five to 10 small pulses.

Keep your movements small: This isolates your abs and prevents other muscles from doing the work.

Streamline Your Stomach
Working your back with this exercise helps your posture, making your abs look slimmer. Lie facedown on the floor, arms extended over your head. Use your back to lift your arms and legs a few inches off the floor. Release, then repeat.


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