Going from lying down to sitting upright works your midsection through a greater range of motion than a crunch does. A super-slow pace increases the benefit. "Taking a breath as you lift, and another as you lower, forces your deepest ab muscles to contract and strengthen--and that helps pull in your belly," says Jennifer Spencer, a trainer at Canyon Ranch Spa in Tucson, Arizona. In weeks your abs will look flatter and you'll feel more stable, thanks to a stronger core. You don't get that from your average crunch!
For best results
> Do 2 or 3 sets of 6 to 8 reps three or four times a week.
> Beginners, start by curling up only halfway. If you feel any pain in your back or neck, stop or ask a trainer for help with perfecting your form.
How To Do It
> Lie faceup with legs extended on the floor, knees and feet together, toes pointed. Extend arms above your chest, fingers pointed and palms facing feet. Contract your abs so your lower back touches the floor.
> Inhale and tuck your chin as you round your spine, lower arms in front of you, and slowly roll up [A]; exhale as your shoulder blades clear the floor, and continue exhaling until you're sitting up, arms extended in front of you [B].
> Take a breath, and on the exhale, slowly lower your torso to the floor. Repeat.
Mistakes To Avoid
> DON'T keep your back straight as you roll up and down; it stresses your spine.
> DON'T raise your legs off the floor; this takes some of the emphasis off your abs and may strain your back.
> DON'T lift your chin or drop your head back, which can hurt your neck.