While aerobic exercise is the undisputed king of burning calories and shedding fat, you won't get the toned, defined body you want without strength training. Hope won't help you achieve awesome abs. Instead, you'll have to work regularly by doing fat-burning exercises such as running and cycling and strength-building routines. Chair leg raises, planks and oblique crunches directly target your abs, and can help you shine in a bikini rather than hide behind a towel.
Target your obliques with a bicycle crunch. Lie on your back with your knees bent. You can either put your feet flat on the floor or bend your knees to form a 90-degree angle. Put your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing out, then push the small of your back toward the ground to engage your abs. Lift your torso up and twist slightly to the right. As you do this, pull your right knee in to touch your left elbow. Then repeat by twisting to the left and touching your left knee with your right elbow. Alternate sides for each crunch. Hold the upward position for one to two seconds, and do five reps on each side.
Work your rectus abdominus muscles -- the muscles responsible for the vertical lines of six-pack abs -- and your back with a plank exercise. Position yourself face down on the floor with your elbows bent. Support yourself using your forearms. Tighten your abdominal muscles and your thighs, then lift your torso and thighs off of the ground, supporting yourself with your feet and your arms, but rely on your abs to lift you. Your body should form a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold the position for five to 10 seconds, then return to your starting position. Do five to 10 reps.
Sit on the edge of a chair to tone your obliques and rectus abdominus using a captain's chair exercise. Keep your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Your spine should be straight. Grip the edge of the chair, then tighten your abs to lift your legs and hips upward toward your chest. Continue to keep your spine straight and avoid arching your back. Hold for one to two seconds, then repeat five to 10 times.
- American Council on Exercise: Front Plank
- American Council on Exercise: New Study Puts the Crunch on Ineffective Ab Exercises
- ExRx.net: Weighted Vertical Leg-Hip Raise
- American Council on Exercise: Supine Bicycle Crunches
- Prevention: Ultimate Stomach Flattener
- MayoClinic.com: Exercise for Weight Loss -- Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- Remember to breathe. When you're exerting a lot of effort -- such as when lifting your legs up in the captain's chair exercise -- exhale, then inhale as you return to your starting position.
- If you're trying to shed fat, you may need as many as 300 minutes of cardio a week.
- Consult your doctor before beginning a new fitness routine, particularly if you have a history of injuries or any chronic muscle pain.
- If any part of the routine is painful, stop immediately.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.