Flat abs Strengthen and tone your abs, back and hips with plank knee drops

Linda Shelton

The payoff

Do this move for six weeks and you’ll find it will be easier to zip up your jeans. It works your deepest abdominal muscles along with your back to firm and strengthen your midsection, says Jennifer Spencer, a personal trainer at Canyon Ranch in Tucson, Ariz., who designed the move.

For best results

* Do 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps of this exercise 2-3 times a week as part of your regular routine.

* Challenge yourself by doing this move with your hands on a balance tool, such as a BOSU trainer, disc or balance board (from $25; performbetter.com).

YOU’LL FEEL IT in the front and sides of your waist, hips, shoulders, chest and back.

RELATED ARTICLE: MUSCLES WORKED

abdominals

1. external obliques

2. internal obliques

3. transverse abdominis

4. rectus abdominis

spine extensors

5. erector spinae

RELATED ARTICLE: Tip Press evenly into the floor with both palms to help keep your hips squared to the floor.

How to do it

* Place your hands on the floor aligned under your shoulders and extend legs behind you close together, balancing on balls of your feet and hands.

* Pull your abs up and in, drawing your tailbone down, so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Squeeze your shoulder blades together and down and keep your head and neck in a neutral position [A].

* Keeping torso and hips even and your toes on the floor, lower left knee to within an inch of floor [B].

* Straighten your left leg, maintaining plank position, and immediately lower your right knee to complete 1 rep. Continue alternating legs to complete set.

Mistakes to avoid

* DON’T let your back arch and belly drop toward the floor as you lower and raise your knees; this stresses your neck, spine and back muscles.

* DON’T rotate or rock your hips; this decreases the exercise’s effectiveness.

* DON’T let your shoulders overshoot your hands, which may stress your wrists or throw you off balance.

RELATED ARTICLE: SHAPE READER MODEL

Daniela Tomasiello, 21, is a dance major at Rutgers University in New Brunswick. N.J. Core strength is key for her. “This is such a great allover move that it’s now part of my conditioning routine,” she says. Tomasiello also does cardio and strength training several times a week.

COPYRIGHT 2006 Weider Publications

COPYRIGHT 2006 Gale Group

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