Don’t worry, nearly every woman’s tummy droops when she does planks, but if you’re exercising at home, no one has to see it. Sculpting a sexy stomach requires consistency, so skip the single marathon session of crunches and do ab workouts for about 10 minutes on three or four days a week. When you tone your stomach in the privacy of your living room, you can show it off in a racy two-piece at the beach or a slinky, sequined dress at the club.
"Supersets" is a fancy term for several exercises performed back to back that work the same muscle group. They’re particularly helpful with ab exercises, because your core tends to tire slowly. Thus, you really need to stack several exercises together to exhaust your abs. The best supersets work your muscles from different angles. A sample stomach-toning superset might include front and side planks, stability ball crunches and the Pilates one-hundred.
Don’t waste your time with ineffective ab exercises. In 2001, the American Council on Exercise evaluated several popular ab moves to see which ones work best. Exercises promoted by infomercials and paid fitness models failed big time, being less effective than even a basic crunch. However, some exercises, the bicycle maneuver and reverse crunch in particular, proved even more effective than a standard crunch. Bonus: You can do them at home. Ultimately, the exercises that require total-body stabilization and recruit multiple body parts work your core the best, so have fun and see what works for you.
Any piece of equipment that helps you do an exercise, by nature makes the move less effective. Why would you pay money for that? Instead, pick products that increase the challenge. Unstable surfaces in the form of inflated discs or stability ballls make ab exercises more challenging. Gadgets that involve rolling a wheel-like device in front of you also increase the challenge, but put a lot of strain on your lower back, so they shouldn’t comprise your entire core routine.
Cardio Interval Training
No matter how many crunches you do, no one will see the effects of your hard work if your abs are covered in an avalanche of flesh. Cardio exercise, particularly high-intensity interval training, helps you burn belly fat. Fitness folks pooh-pooh spot training, but interval training might just be the ticket. A study published in the “International Journal of Obesity” found that interval training outperformed steady-state cardio and helped young women target their tummies specifically. To do interval training at home, perform jumping jacks, plyometric squats, jogging in place, cardio dance or whatever gets your heart rate soaring. It doesn’t matter if you look ridiculous -- no one but your furniture can see you. Do these moves for one minute, followed by two minutes of recovery.
Pamela Ellgen began writing in 2000 for "The Asian Reporter" newspaper. She is an award-winning journalist and writes on religion, culture, health and fitness. Ellgen graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in writing from Washington State University and is a certified personal trainer with the National Academy of Sports Medicine.