Katrina Hodgson, NASM CPT, BS Health Science, has helped thousands reach their goals by designing fitness programs with her workout videos and her website ToneItUp.com. As one of Diet.comís featured personal trainers she hopes to share her passion for fitness and continue to make a positive impact for the Diet.com community.

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Fitness Expert Katrina

by Katrina Hodgson, Diet.com Fitness Expert

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We all dream of a firmer, flatter tummy. And many of us work hard to attain that dream.

Last week I shared with you the 5 worst ab exercises - the ways we work a lot for little reward.

This week, I'm gonna help you tone your midsection faster and more effectively with my 5 favorite ab exercises.

Your abdominal muscles consist of many different parts. We want to target all the muscles and perform different movements that isolate each one.

An important part of your core -- one that too many people do not consider -- is the lower back. With all abdominal routines, you should always perform lower-back strengthening exercises. This balances your core and keeps your lower back strong so you are able to perform all your exercises correctly.

Another important thing to remember: Stretching after a workout not only feels good, but it also helps you ward off injury!

OK, so here are my 5 BEST ways to work your abs!

1. Bicycle Crunches!
One of my favorite exercises is the bicycle crunch. It targets the entire rectus abdominus and the obliques. Those are fancy words for the muscles that make up your core - the muscles that look good when tight. The best part about bicycle crunches is that they are easy to do anywhere and no equipment is needed! I always include them in programs for my clients at home, in the gym or when they travel.

2. Physioball Tuck or Pike!
This exercise not only targets your abs, but also works out your lower back, your core balance and your entire body's stabilization. Check out the images then do a tuck before progressing to a straight-legged pike.

3. Hanging Leg Raises!
Theses have been around for a while - probably because they work so great! You do need a gym or at least a bar to hang from. You can use arm slings or hang from just your hands. To target your obliques, bring your legs up to the side. The hardest part about hanging leg raises is stabilizing your lower back and abs to keep your whole body from swinging. This truly is one of the best ways to target your core.

4. Side Hip Thrusts
In a side plank position, bring your hips from the floor to a straight line with your body. Squeeze your obliques as you thrust your hips up. This is one of my favorites because once again you are working on your stability muscles in your entire body. You can do this on a bosu ball but it works just as well on the floor.

5. Physioball Leg Lifts!
These are more advanced! Start on the floor and progress to doing them on a ball. We filmed a few years ago but they remain one of my favorite exercises to prescribe for my clients!

In addition to sit-ups and ab routines, anything that works your total body - such as stability exercises, phyometrics or power moves - all work your abdominal muscles too.

Always remember: You want to have balance in your workouts! Even running or doing any sports works out your core. Variety is the spice of workout life!

In addition to a great ab routine, include other exercise that give you total body balance to prevent injury or postural imbalances. Another key for attaining a flatter stomach is to eat a healthy diet! In order to lose fat in your midsection (to show off those beautiful abs below the flab) you have to create a deficit in your daily calories with cardio and diet.


Katrina Hodgson, www.ToneItUp.com, NASM CPT, BS Health Science, has helped thousands reach their goals by designing fitness programs with her workout videos and her website ToneItUp.com.

@ 1:54pm ET on March 7, 2008
Thanks Katrina I've been waiting for this post! haha :)

@ 2:24pm ET on March 7, 2008
;) Hope they work out great!

@ 7:26pm ET on March 7, 2008
Thanks Katrina!! I can't wait to try them out

@ 10:12pm ET on March 7, 2008
Thanks Katrina I love bicycle crunches as well!

@ 6:48am ET on March 10, 2008
hi katrina I love to exercise everyday but my problem is i dont have time to do it, coz im office timings are too long.........what you can advice me?

@ 6:49am ET on March 10, 2008

@ 1:53pm ET on March 10, 2008
Yeah I was waiting for this one too. I'm already doing leg lifts and side-planks but it'll be great to take them up a step with the physio ball.

I noticed yesterday when I did interval training running that my abs ached for a while afterwards, which I thought was odd, but your post has explained that too!!


@ 4:12pm ET on March 10, 2008
Hi Katrina,
I get bored very easily. Is there any workout that is affective and is somewhat fun to do?
Please help me!

@ 5:33pm ET on March 10, 2008
I agree that these are excellent moves for targeting your core. However, I read your "5 worst" list last week, and couple of the exercise were discounted for being hard to do correctly. Aren't these moves rather advanced? I know it took me a while to learn how to do the hanging leg raise right.

@ 6:25am ET on March 19, 2008
thnx katrina :)ihave alot of fats in my hips plz wats the best exercise for me..

@ 9:33pm ET on April 23, 2008
Thanx Katrina! Bicycle crunches are my favorite! I'll have to try the others now!

@ 12:21am ET on May 1, 2008
Thanks, Katrina! Our abs will be burning!

@ 2:55pm ET on May 2, 2008
I need to do these exercises all the time

@ 2:49pm ET on March 2, 2009
thank u, this is actually what i've been doing for the past month along with other ab excercises with balance ball and i can see my belly getting flatter already, i just have a question about the hanging leg raises, cause i don't have where to do them , does the machine at the gym for raising ur legs target the same muscles? ... thank u

@ 1:30am ET on March 7, 2009
I'm really having trouble balancing on the ball for the physioball tuck/pike. Tips, please!

@ 6:34am ET on March 8, 2009
Ooh thanks for this!

@ 2:26pm ET on March 22, 2009
Oooooh, I can almost feel the buuuuurrrrrn now! OUCH! Thanks for the tips! I have the physioball but have not really gotten into it. I'm going to give it another go for my toning routine.

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