Sculpt them sleek and sexy with these six easy tricks
It takes only a few key exercises and a handful of minutes a week to shape and maintain a solid core, says Jennifer Williams, a former professional ballet dancer and a Pilates instructor who's the abs maestro behind this cinch-in-a-blink workout.
Williams borrowed the best of ballet and Pilates to turn her supereffective technique into the Pop Physique studio chain. Thanks to her traditional background, Pop Physique's barre routines are rooted in the classics (as in the familiar pliés and pulses), but each workout has a sexy edge to it (you'll bend and twist in new ways). "It's modern and fun," she says. It's also just the creative approach your tummy needs to stay sleek. The classes are typically an hour long and will work you head to toe, but for this session, Williams has picked six hyperfocused moves that work magic on your abs.
The trick to maximizing each move's firming power, Williams says, is to focus on two very important things throughout every single rep: posture and breath. When it comes to your posture, lift up with your abs and back muscles. "And always pull your tummy in," she explains. "Never push it out." As you exhale, draw your belly button toward your spine.
On top of saving your abs, this workout will also lift and round your butt and tighten your thighs, Williams says. You'll use a small, soft ball for four of the six moves. (We used the Pop Physique Pop Ball, $25, popphysique.com, but you can sub any small, pliable ball, or even a rolled-up towel.) By holding it between your thighs or behind your knee, you have to squeeze your legs to keep it in place, which activates muscles that would otherwise be sleeping through certain moves, Williams explains. You can think of it as extra-credit toning for each exercise.
After just one workout, your abs and booty will really feel it. In a week, you'll be walking taller and with a little more confidence. Keep it up and everything will fit—and zip—better.
How it works: Do each move in order for the reps indicated. Repeat the circuit two to three times. You can do this routine three days a week on alternate days.
Total Time: up to 15 minutes
1. Plié Bend
Hold ball and stand with feet wide and toes turned out 45 degrees. Raise ball overhead, squat, and lift left heel to start.
Keep arms straight and bend torso toward left, reaching ball over knee. Slowly pulse ball up 2 inches and down 2 inches. Switch sides; repeat.
2. Extended Lift
Hold ball, and stand with heels together and toes turned out 45 degrees. Extend arms forward at chest height, and raise left leg to hip height. Bend knee slightly, point toes, and rotate leg inward to start.
Straighten left leg, then pulse leg up to touch ball and lower to start position. Switch sides; repeat.
3. Oblique Tilt
Hold ball, and stand with heels together and toes turned out 45 degrees. Bend right knee, drawing foot toward butt, and place ball behind right knee (squeeze ball tightly); point toes, and bring fingertips behind head with elbows bent out to side to start. Rotate torso toward right as you raise right knee out to side, drawing elbow toward knee. Slowly pulse knee up 2 inches and down 2 inches. Switch sides; repeat.
4. Plank Diagonal
Start on floor in plank on palms with feet together. Draw right knee toward chest.
Then extend leg back and out 45 degrees. Switch sides; repeat.
5. Slow Punches
Sit on floor with knees bent and ball pressed between thighs, holding backs of thighs with elbows bent out to sides. Round lower back, tuck pelvis, and squeeze glutes and inner thighs to start. Slowly extend left arm forward, rotating fist palm down at eye level. Switch sides; repeat.
6. Scissors Kick
Lie faceup on floor with legs extended over hips and arms by sides with palms down. Turn legs in and cross right leg over left to start. Then switch legs. Slowly lower legs to 45 degrees, continuing to scissor them. Scissor legs back to start position.