Q: I've heard that doing abdominal exercises every day will help you get a firmer midsection. But I've also heard that it's best to do these exercises every other day to give your ab muscles a rest. Which is correct?

A: "Work them twice a week, as you would any other muscle group," says Tom Seabourne, Ph.D., co-author of Athletic Abs (Human Kinetics, 2003) and director of kinesiology at Northeast Texas Community College in Mount Pleasant. The rectus abdominis is the large, thin sheet of muscle that runs the length of your torso, and "this muscle responds best to high-intensity training," Seabourne explains. "If you try to do high-intensity training every day, you're going to break down the muscle."

Seabourne recommends choosing ab exercises that are challenging enough that you can perform just 10-12 repetitions per set. (Rather than choose the mundane crunch, for instance, perform crunches on a stability ball, which are considerably tougher.) Then let these muscles rest at least 48 hours between workouts.

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