Skip to content

Fitness & Exercise

Font Size

Fab Abs: What Works, What Doesn't?

Gizmos and supplements promise a "six-pack" with very little effort. Can they really give you the washboard abs you've always dreamed of? WebMD asked the experts.

The Best Exercises

Ab exercises often involve Swiss balls -- oversized balls commonly found in gyms and workout centers. "You can lie on the ball, do your exercises. It's more functional, requires balance, so you're using more muscles to stabilize and balance while you're doing your exercises. You're working muscles through the full range of motion, getting stronger muscles."

Spot training -- just doing crunches -- just doesn't work, DeGennaro tells WebMD. "If you have a little bit of a pot belly, just doing crunches isn't going to make that go away. You have to burn calories. You can do 500 crunches a day, but if you have a pot belly and drink beer every night, you're not going to get washboard abs."

Diet is 85% of weight loss, so 15% of your effort should involve fitness and strengthening, he explains "You've got to have your diet under control, then add in all your cardio and abdominal work."

"I'm not a big 'machine person,'" says DeGennaro. "When you're doing a machine, the same muscle fibers are working in the same sequence every single time. You can develop 'pattern overload' -- your body becomes accustomed to that pattern, and after awhile you're not accomplishing anything. Your body plateaus, gets more efficient at burning the calories. Pretty soon, you're not burning any calories."

"You've got to add variety, do a different routine, so your body doesn't plateau," he says.

Like DeGennaro, Bookspan doesn't believe that machines, ephedra drugs, or simple crunches are the answer to flatter abs.

A Simpler Approach

She believes in an isometric approach -- teaching people exercises that can subtly be integrated into your normal, daily routine. All are aimed at attaining better posture and less back pain -- along with more attractive abs, she tells WebMD.

"Most people can't imagine using their abs while standing," she writes. "Yet this is what will keep your back supported and prevent pain and injury during daily activities. Use this whenever you reach overhead -- from pulling shirts off to reaching cabinets, to washing your hair, to lifting weights."

"Using abs correctly will firm your abs and help you burn calories," she says. "It's a free workout you can give yourself every day."

1 | 2

Healthy Living Tools

Ditch Those Inches

Set goals, tally calorie intake, track workouts and more, all via WebMD’s free Food & Fitness Planner.

Get Started

Today on WebMD

pilates instructor
15 moves that get results.
woman stretching before exercise
How and when to do it.
couple working out
Moves you can do at home.
woman exercising
Strengthen your core with these moves.
man exercising
knees to chest
Man looking at watch before workout
Overweight man sitting on park bench

Pollen counts, treatment tips, and more.

It's nothing to sneeze at.

Loading ...

Sending your email...

This feature is temporarily unavailable. Please try again later.


Now check your email account on your mobile phone to download your new app.

pilates instructor
jogger running among flowering plants
woman walking
woman doing pushups