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Flat Ab Tip No. 2: Think Whole-Body Exercise continued...

"Fitness needs to be intelligent," says Barrett. "Do slow, high-quality exercise."

Neporent recommends Pilates "because the focus is the core, but it doesn't just work the abs in isolation," she says. That means you're using your abdominals, but you're also using your arms and legs, back muscles, and glutes.

"Crunches are fine, at first, but relatively quickly, you'll have to progress to something else to get that area worked," she says.

Pilates focuses on developing not just the rectus abdominis (top abdominal muscle layer) as a crunch does, but the internal and external obliques (the side abdominals) and the transversus abdominis (the deepest abdominal muscle).

"Work your core in 3-D, hitting the sides, back, and middle," Neporent says.

Plank: Start on your hands and knees and come up into a push-up plank position, balancing on hands (or elbows) and toes (or knees). Align wrists under shoulders; keep your back straight and the abs and glutes tight (to keep the back from sagging). Hold the position and breathe out for 10 seconds, exhaling to tighten the abs and draw the navel to the spine.

Leg Lowers: Lying supine, curl the upper body, chest over ribs, with your hands behind your head. Lift the legs up with knees bent at 90 degrees, knees over hips, ankles level with knees. Keeping the hips down, slowly lower the legs toward the floor without changing the bend in the knees, then lift them back up.

Seated Rotations: Sitting up, bend knees and legs together and place arms across the chest or in front of you. Tuck the tailbone and roll back slightly as you alternate rotating the spine right and left.

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