Abs to Be Proud Of

Add these exercises to your workout to tighten and tone your tummy.

What words would you use to describe your belly? Saggy, poochy, and round or tight, toned, and flat? If your tummy could use some trimming, you may want to add a few extra abdominal exercises to your daily workout routine. While spot reduction doesn’t work, focusing on a set of muscles can help define and tone them so when your regular fat-burning exercises and diet do the work of weight loss, tight muscles are revealed underneath.

Ask your trainer for ab exercise recommendations and chances are, he or she will tell you variations of one or more of the following effective exercises.

Barbell Squat

Yes, the barbell squat works your legs and back, but it’s also a highly effective core and abdominal workout. As you squat and lift, you use your core muscles to stabilize your body. Place the barbell across your shoulders and stand so your feet are shoulder-width apart. Keep your back straight and bend your knees as if you’re going to sit in a chair, making sure your knees don’t pass in front of your toes. Return to standing. Do three sets of 8 to 10 reps.

Abdominal Hold

Any exercise that requires you to hold your muscles tight for an extended period of time is effective at building and strengthening muscle. The abdominal hold is one such isometric exercise. Sit on the edge of a chair and put your hands on the front seat portion of the chair, fingers pointing forward, next to your hips. Contract your abs and lift your feet and rear several inches off the chair. Hold this position for at least 5 to 10 seconds, and then lower your body down. Repeat for one minute.

Standing Lift

Another exercise that engages multiple muscle groups while working your abs is the standing lift. Stand with your feet placed hip-width apart and hold a medicine ball or other type of free weight between both hands. Tighten your abs, bend your knees, and reach the ball or weight down behind your left leg. Raise back up and use your arms to swing the ball or weight up above your right shoulder. Do 10 to 12 reps on each side.

Boat Pose

A second isometric exercise that builds muscle while holding a position is the boat pose. Sit on the floor, bend your knees, and lift your feet off the floor. Then straighten your legs, lean your upper body back slightly, and extend your arms straight in front of you on either side of your legs. Your body should make a V-shape. Hold this pose for as long as you can and then relax. Repeat.

Reverse Curl and Lift

A variation of the traditional crunch, the reverse curl and lift is another great abdominal exercise. Lie on your back, place your hands behind your head, and straighten your legs. Lift your heels off the floor and point your toes. Tighten your abs, bend your knees toward your chest, lift your hips slightly, and raise your head toward your knees. Return to starting position and repeat.

Squat with a Twist

Work your side abdominals with the squat and twist. Stand and place your feet shoulder-width apart. Straighten your arms in front of you at shoulder height. Next, bend your knees into right angles as you lower your upper body. At the same time, twist your upper body to the right. Keep your lower legs facing forward. Raise back up and squat again, this time twist to the left. Repeat.