The 5 Best Ab Workouts for a Flat Belly
Let this be the summer we approach belly fat head-on with a no-nonsense, but totally accessible workout circuit we can do anywhere, anytime—no excuses.
All you’ll need are socks and a towel to pull off these moves—that come to Reader’s Digest courtesy of Stephanie Petruccio of SLT, the celebrity hotspot that has helped sculpt the bodies of Sofía Vergara, Chrissy Teigen, and Kyra Sedgwick.
Do the moves consecutively for the recommended time, taking a 15- to 30-second break between each one. After the circuit is complete, take a one-minute break and repeat the circuit two more times.
Make sure you’re not falling for any of the top eight myths about abs.
Lay flat on your back, arms reaching up to the ceiling and knees bent at 90 degrees over your hips. Drop your tailbone and engage your lower abdominals, pressing the low back into the floor. Now press your arms down by your side and straighten your legs; at the same time, lift your neck and shoulders off of the floor by engaging the upper abdominals. Slowly return to the starting position, resting your head but keeping your abs tight, then repeat the move. If you find your back is arching away from the floor as you lengthen the legs, don’t lower your legs as much when you straighten them.
Do this exercise for 1 minute at a slow pace (think 4 counts out, 4 counts in).
Petruccio likes this exercise because it works your upper and lower abdominals. But, as you press the arms down, you get some tricep work as well.
Walk the plank
Start in a plank position with your arms straight, shoulders over wrists, and feet together or hip-width apart for more support. Lower down to your forearms, one side at a time, and then “walk” your arms back up again until they’re straight. Think “down, left arm; down, right arm; up, left arm; up, right arm.” Repeat for 30 seconds.
This works the entire core and upper body. You may also feel some tension in the legs. If this is too challenging in a full plank, try a modified plank by supporting yourself on your hands and knees. Don’t miss these plank upgrades that will reshape your entire body.
Plank to pike
Start this exercise in a forearm plank with a towel under your feet, shoulders over elbows, feet together, and abs pulled in to prevent your back from arching. Start to raise your hips towards the ceiling using the lower abdominals and sliding your feet forward. As you lift higher, think about pressing the bottom of your ribcage in to activate your upper abdominals. As you pike the hips up, tuck your head between the shoulders; think “eyes to thighs.” Also, focus on keeping the shoulders back over the elbows the entire time—they will want to shift too far forward to help you lift your hips. If this happens, shorten your range of motion so you are always working with your abs. Lower back into your perfect forearm plank and repeat. Repeat for one minute to challenge your entire core.
You can do this exercise with a towel under your feet to slide more smoothly. Start in a straight-arm plank position. Twist your knees and hips to face your left side; draw the knees in towards the left tricep, stopping when your knees are under the hips. (This works your obliques and core without involving the hips flexors.) Then, square the hips off and press back out into a straight arm plank. Repeat on the right side. Keep alternating sides for one minute.
Lunging torso twist
Start with the left foot forward and the right foot back; bend both knees and hold the legs in a lunge position. Your hips and shoulders should be squared forward, your shoulders pressed down away from the ears; lift your arms and elbows to the side and press your fists together in front of your chest. Keeping your hips still, slowly twist your upper body towards the left, and then return to your starting position. Think about doing this on a slow 2-count and focus on keeping your hips from twisting. Twist to the left for one minute, then switch feet and (right foot forward, left foot back) and repeat on the right side for one minute.
Be sure to avoid the 10 biggest mistakes women make when doing ab exercises.