Updated: August 26, 2011

Think doing hundreds of crunches and sit-ups is the way to more-toned abs? Think again, says Gina Lombardi, a certified personal trainer in Los Angeles who has worked with Kirstie Alley and Leah Remini. Don't waste your time doing mindless repetitions, she says. The best way to get firm abdominals -- which give you a strong core for sports, daily activities and good posture -- is to focus on the exact area being worked. "The key is to know what muscles you're working and where they are, then tune into that area during each rep," Lombardi says. If you don't, you'll probably allow other muscles, such as the neck and hip flexors, to do the work and your ab muscles won't get fatigued or toned.

Lombardi also uses a system of training that changes the exercises you do every six to eight weeks, so your abdominal muscles are constantly challenged, which speeds up the results. As a bonus, you'll never get bored by doing the same exercises over and over again.

Lombardi uses a variety of exercises, including the three featured this month, with her own clients. The machine crunch targets the rectus abdominis, which you use when you curl your upper torso toward your pelvis. The second exercise, the medicine ball twist, also works on strengthening the rectus abdominis but also hits the obliques, which rotate and flex your spine. The last exercise, the tilts and bridges, will strengthen the entire abdominal area.

Finally, train your abs just like you would train any other body part. Three workouts a week at the proper intensity, repetitions and form will get your abs in their best shape, Lombardi says.

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