5 Moves for Firm Abs

Challenge your stability to tighten that tummy with these 5 moves.

Judi Ketteler | January 06, 2014

  • Weighted Plank

    Target Muscles: transverse abdominis, deltoids

    Set up: Begin by kneeling on a mat, holding a five- to 10-pound plate against your lower back with both hands.

    Action: As you bend forward at your hips (not your waist) let go of the weight with one hand and place that forearm on the mat. Then slowly place your other forearm on the mat, balancing the weight on your lower back. As you support your weight through your upper body, extend one leg and then the other into a plank position. Keep both legs straight. Hold up to 60 seconds and place your knees back on the floor to rest.

    Tips: Your elbows should be directly under your shoulders. Your lower back should be in a neutral position (no excessive arch or rounding out your back).

  • One-Arm Plank

    Target Muscles: transverse abdominis, deltoids

    Set Up: Begin in a plank position with your weight supported on your hands and feet and your legs hip-distance apart. Keep your shoulder blades away from your ears and your spine long and straight.

    Action: Tense your legs and draw your navel toward your spine and keep your hips level as you remove one hand from the floor and place it on your lower back. Continue to breathe as you hold this position for 20 to 60 seconds. Rest for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.

    Tip: If your abdominal strength does not allow you to hold this position with perfect form then begin on your hands and knees. Perform the exercise in the exact same way from the knees. When your form is flawless, then move to your toes.

  • Ball Crunch with Alternating Knee Tuck

    Target Muscles: Rectus abdominis, hip flexors

    Set Up: Sit on the ball, then walk your feet forward as you lean back until you are lying on the ball. Keep your hands at your temples or behind your head (but not interlocking your fingers).

    Action: Draw your navel to your spine and exhale as your curl up and simultaneously tuck one knee to your chest. Hold for a second and slowly return to the starting position and repeat on the other side.

    Tip: If you find you can’t keep your balance yet, then perform the exercise as described, except place your hands on either side of the ball and use your arms to help your balance.

  • Ball Plank with Alternating Knee Tuck

    Target Muscles: Transverse abdominis, hip flexors, deltoids, latissimus dorsi

    Set Up: Begin in a plank with your forearms on an exercise ball, your shoulders directly over your elbows and your legs fully extended with your feet on the floor (flexed so your weight is on the ball of your toes, not your tip toes).

    Action: Inhale and maintain this position, then exhale and bend one knee into a tuck position toward the ball while simultaneously drawing the ball toward the knee with the arms. Inhale and return to the starting position and then repeat with the other leg.

    Tip: use your breath! Exhaling fully help you to contract your abs and focus on the movement.

  • Ball Reverse Plank

    Target Muscles: transverse abdominis, hip flexors

    Set Up: Begin my lying face up on an exercise ball.

    Action: Slowly walk yoru self backward, keeping your body perpendicular to the floor. Keep moving back until you can place your fingertips on the floor, on each side of the ball and slightly back. Move backward until your feet feel light on the floor. Stop there and then extend both legs parallel to the floor. Inhale and exhale as you hold this reverse plank position.

    Tip: To find that "sweet spot" where you can balance perfectly you may need to make small adjustments forward or backward. Keep your chin tucked toward your chest to avoid neck pain.