6 Tips for Flat Abs
Two fitness gurus offer their secrets for toning and tightening the tummy.
Like the quest for the Holy Grail, most of us are always on a mission to
improve our abs.
For a while, people coveted the washboard abs gracing runways, the pages of
fashion magazines, and billboards in Times Square. Now everyone is after
Beyonce's flat, tight stomach.
So what does it take to get there?
WebMD talked to fitness
experts Ellen Barrett and Liz Neporent to find out the best way to achieve
great abs and a tighter midsection. Here are their top six tips.
Flat Ab Tip No. 1: Improve Your Posture
Poor posture is a huge issue for many people, says celebrity trainer and
star of numerous exercise DVDs Ellen Barrett.
Barrett says she frequently sees people walking in Manhattan with their ears in front of their
bodies and shoulders in front of their hearts.
"If people slouch, their stomachs pooch," Barrett says.
For better posture while standing, align your ears over your shoulders,
shoulders over hips, hips over knees, and knees over ankles. Keep the fronts of
the shoulders open like a shirt on a hanger, instead of a shirt on a peg. Draw
your navel to your spine and keep your weight even on the balls and heels.
The result: Without doing any abdominal exercise, you can look much leaner
by simply standing up straight.
"With your shoulders back and chest up, the abs pull themselves in,"
Barrett tells WebMD. "Your energy level improves when you have good
posture. Your lung capacity is better. You're open and more awake."
Flat Ab Tip No. 2: Think Whole-Body Exercise
When it comes to abdominal strength, you shouldn't train the body in
isolation, says Liz Neporent, president of Wellness 360, a corporate wellness
consulting firm in New York.
"People have this misconception that the best way to strengthen the abs
is to get on the floor and do a thousand crunches," Neporent tells
"If we could spot reduce, our jaws would be hollow," Barrett adds.
"We probably work the jaw muscle in talking and eating more than any other,
and none of us have hollow jaws."
"You have to see the abs as a 360-degree core," she says. "You
want to develop strength and flexibility around that core."
"Fitness needs to be intelligent," says Barrett. "Do slow,
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
"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