Who was the joker who dubbed the jiggle that hangs over our jeans love handles? There’s not much to love. But before you go side-crunch yourself into a stupor, remember this: You can’t focus exclusively on your mirror muscles and expect to see a flat belly fast. This well-rounded workout, created by Melissa Paris, a certified personal trainer who also holds a degree in dietetics and nutrition, targets all of the muscles that make up your midsection. Not only will you be able to finally deflate that soufflé rising over your trousers, but you’ll also have a stronger core, better posture, and sexier abs.
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Complete the exercises in the order shown for the recommended sets and reps or duration to take muffin tops off the menu.
“This isolation exercise targets your internal abdominals, called the transverse abs,” says Paris. “These muscles are the deepest muscles that act as a girdle that holds everything together. By strengthening them you’ll develop a stronger core and a slimmer waistline.” Start by getting into a pushup position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of on your hands. Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were about to be punched in the gut. Hold for 30 seconds. As the exercise becomes easier over time, increase the duration of your hold by intervals of 15 seconds, eventually working up to 3 minutes.
15-Minute Workout: Stand up for Flat Abs
2. Side Plank
The side plank is another isolation and balance exercise that targets your core, hips, and back—muscles that play a large role in smoothing out love handles, says Paris. Start by lying on your side with your knees straight and feet stacked. Prop up your upper body on your left elbow and forearm, then raise your hips until your body forms a straight line from the ankles to the shoulders. Hold for 30 seconds and repeat on the other side. As the exercise becomes easier over time, increase the duration of your hold by intervals of 15 seconds, working up to 3 minutes.
No gear? No problem! This amazing abs workout can be done anywhere
3. Scissor Kicks
Working your obliques not only defines your waistline, it also improves posture, which can help decrease back pain, says Paris. Start by lying on your back with feet 6 inches off the ground and your hands by your sides. Pull your navel in toward your spine to eliminate the arch in your back. Keeping both feet off the ground and your legs straight, alternate kicking your feet toward the ceiling. Kick with your right leg, then your left leg. That’s 1 rep. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions.
Make it harder Do the exercise while wearing ankle weights.
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4. Vacuum Exercise
The transverse abdominals are the most important muscles to target when you’re trying to flatten your belly, says Paris. They’re hard to reach—but this do-anywhere move hits ’em. Start on all fours with your spine relaxed and inhale deeply. While you exhale, pull your navel toward your spine and hold for 12 seconds. That’s 1 rep. Repeat for 12 repetitions.
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5. Opposite Arm and Leg Raise
Balance and stabilization exercises like this one will strengthen your core and lower back, giving way to a slimmer waist, says Paris. Start on all fours. Then simultaneously lift your right arm straight in front of you and left leg behind you, creating a straight line between your fingertips and heel. Hold for a breath and return to start. Repeat the move, this time using your left arm and right leg. That’s one rep. Complete 20 repetitions.
6. Bicycle Crunch
Round out this routine with the bicycle crunch, which targets the rectus abdominals, the hardworking muscles that hold you upright. Start lying on your back. Place your hands behind your head, and lift knees toward your chest so that both your hips and knees are bent 90 degrees. Curl your head and shoulders off the floor while twisting your torso to the left. At the same time, pull your left knee toward your right elbow and extend your right leg so that it’s about a 45-degree angle to the floor. Repeat on the other side by twisting your torso to the right and pulling your right knee toward your left elbow while you extend your left leg. That’s one rep. Complete 15 repetitions.
VIDEO: Watch trainer to the cast of Glee Bernardo Coppola perform his take on the bicycle crunch for abs