While the fitness industry has seen more than its fair share of trends, exercise fundamentals have pretty much stayed the same: To get toned, challenge your muscles with heavier weights and new exercises. To burn fat and calories, increase your workout intensity. And to stave off boredom, mix up your routine. That's not to say the basics can’t stand a little updating every now and again. To make sure you’re getting your best workout, we tracked down the current thinking on everything from maximizing fat burn to stretching. Try one of these new approaches every day this week and we bet you'll feel stronger, firmer, and more energized. After all, the only thing you have to lose is flab.
Do crunches to tone your belly.
Get off the mat and add resistance.
"Performing crunches on a stability ball allows a greater range of motion and calls on more muscles to help you stay balanced," says Stuart McGill, Ph.D., a professor of spine biomechanics at the University of Waterloo in Canada. This is only true if you put the ball in the correct spot, though. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that using a stability ball significantly increased abdominal activity only when the ball was placed under the lower back. Centering it under the shoulder blades was less effective than doing crunches on the floor.
If your middle's weak, do 4 sets of 20 crunches on a ball with 30 seconds of rest between sets. As you get stronger, increase the number of reps or decrease the rest period. If you want to create firmer, more visible muscles, hold a 10- to 15-pound dumbbell or weight plate against your chest and do 3 sets of 8 crunches on the ball, with up to 3 minutes of rest between sets. Finally, add core moves, such as plank pose, to challenge your abs and back and help stabilize your spine during daily activities.