Slim Belly Workout

Surprise! Good ol' crunches are one of the fastest ways to firm your midsection. (Hate crunches? Bear with us.) Thanks to 5 decades of research and nearly 90 studies, scientists have zeroed in on the best moves to flatten your belly. The secret is to really fatigue your abs—not an easy task, because they're used to working all day to keep you standing tall. But we created a routine that, when combined with regular cardio, does it in just four moves.

We know for sure because we had nearly a dozen women road-test the program as part of our Prevention Fitness Lab. "I couldn't believe the difference a few days made," says Gwen Hoover, 48, of Fogelsville, PA, who whittled more than 2 inches off her middle, lost 14% of her belly fat, and dropped nearly 4 pounds in just 1 week! Even our slimmest testers saw impressive results. At 5-foot-6 and 125 pounds, Rachelle Vander Schaaf, 49, of Macungie, PA, wasn't expecting to see a big change, but she shaved more than 3 inches off her belly—without dieting. You can too! Start now and show off an all-around leaner belly for the rest of the summer season.

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Program at a Glance
3 DAYS A WEEK
Do the four-move Slim Belly routine on 3 nonconsecutive days to tone your midsection.

5 DAYS A WEEK
Do 30 to 40 minutes of cardio, such as brisk walking, swimming, jogging, or bike riding, to burn off belly fat. You should be breathing hard but still able to talk in short sentences.

EVERY DAY
Watch portions and fill up on whole grains, vegetables, fruits, lean protein, and healthy fats to maximize results. Aim for 1,600 to 1,800 calories spread evenly throughout the day. To keep tabs on your eating, go to prevention. com/healthtracker.

Target Deep Belly Fat: The fattest way to flatten.

SAMPLE WORKOUT SCHEDULE

DayActivity
MondayAbs and Cardio
TuesdayCardio
WednesdayRest
ThursdayAbs and Cardio
FridayRest
SaturdayAbs and Cardio
SundayCardio

Slim Belly Workout
Do 3 sets of each move, performing as many reps (1 second up, 1 second down) as possible until you feel a burning sensation in the muscles you're working or you can no longer maintain proper form. rest 15 seconds between sets. You'll likely be able to do more reps during earlier sets and exercises—and that's okay. after you can do 50 reps or hold a plank for 2 minutes for most sets, try the harder variations, change the order of the exercises, or do the moves after another type of workout.

1. Hipless Crunch

Slim Belly Workout

This variation better targets abs by preventing hips and upper body from helping you lift.

Lie on back with legs lifted and bent, calves parallel to floor, and feet relaxed. Cross arms over chest with hands on shoulders. Contract abdominal muscles and lift head, shoulders, and upper back about 30 degrees off floor. Lower without touching head to floor. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you lower.

*Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 25 reps per set.

MAKE IT EASIER
Rest calves on a chair and extend arms down at sides.

MAKE IT HARDER
Extend legs straight up.

Trim Your Waistline: 12 Belly-flattening moves from The Biggest Loser .

TIPS

  • Don't pull chin toward chest.
  • Focus on abs doing the work; imagine sliding rib cage toward hips.

STOP WHEN...

  • You start pulling or jerking up with head, neck, or shoulders.
  • You can't keep neck or shoulders relaxed.

2. No-Hands Reverse Crunch

Slim Belly Workout

Instead of keeping arms at sides, where they can help abs, anchor them overhead to activate more belly muscles. Lie faceup with arms overhead and hands grasping a heavy piece of furniture or railing. Raise feet into the air with legs bent. Contract abs, press back into floor, and lift hips off floor. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you lower.

*Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 21 reps per set.

MAKE IT EASIER
Do the move with arms down at sides.

MAKE IT HARDER
Straighten legs.

Get Up and Move: Use those legs to walk off a size with this workout.

TIPS

  • Feel the contraction in abs, not in back or legs.
  • Tilt pelvis.
  • Think of lifting up instead of pulling knees toward chest.

STOP WHEN...

  • You can't lift hips off floor without jerking.
  • Neck and shoulders are tense.

3. V Crunch

Slim Belly Workout

This exercise gets your upper and lower body moving simultaneously to recruit the maximum number of muscle fibers in your midsection. Balance on tailbone with legs bent, feet off floor, and arms bent at sides. Make sure back is straight and chest is lifted. Lean back and extend arms and legs, then pull back to start position.

*Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 11 reps per set.

MAKE IT EASIER
Grasp sides of thighs with hands.

MAKE IT HARDER
Hold a 3- to 5-pound dumbbell in each hand.

TIPS

  • Eyes gaze straight forward; keep chin parallel to floor.
  • Don't let back curve or shoulders rise toward ears.

STOP WHEN...

  • You can't keep arms or legs up.
  • You can't keep chest lifted.
  • Back or neck starts to hurt.

4. Side Plank

Slim Belly Workout

Static balancing moves like this one are challenging because your deepest abs work really hard to hold your core in midair. Do them after crunches to ensure complete fatigue—and firm abs from every angle. Lie on right side, elbow beneath shoulder, feet stacked, left hand on hip. Contract abs to lift hip and leg off floor. Hold until fatigued, noting your time. Do 3 sets before switching sides.

* Prevention Fitness Lab testers averaged 19 seconds per side for each set.

MAKE IT EASIER
Bend legs and balance on bottom knee and side of lower leg.

MAKE IT HARDER
Straighten top arm toward sky.

Target Deep Belly Fat: Walk off belly fat with this fun program.

TIPS

  • Keep head, neck, torso, hips, and legs all in one straight line.
  • Don't sink into shoulder—press elbow into floor and lift torso.

STOP WHEN...

  • Hip is sagging toward floor.
  • Neck, shoulder, or back hurts.
  • You can't keep body in line.

THE EXPERT
Tony Caterisano, PhD, exercise scientist and professor in the department of health sciences at Furman University, designed this workout.

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