"Sorry," I mumble, after knocking into a woman at an edgy downtown New York fitness studio.
"What are you sorry about?" she asks curiously.
"I didn't mean to bump you," I explain, looking up. It's Gwyneth Paltrow.
"Don't be," she says.
Radiant and dewy (yup, ladies, she sweats) in leggings, sports bra, and a towel draped around her neck, she's trying to grab a confab with Tracy Anderson, her longtime trainer and owner of the place, before running off to get ready for an Iron Man 2 event. But we exchange pleasantries, and I get a chance to take in her long, lean, feline stomach.
I want it.
"I've studied sexy abs," says Anderson, when I get her alone for 1.3 minutes between students, managers, calls, texts, and crunches. She is teeny and fierce, and 24-karat female, which is why celebrities like Courtney Cox, Kate Hudson, Shakira, and Gisele Bündchen, love her, not to mention models Karolina Kurkova and Christy Turlington, who are working out in the next room. "Personally, I don't like the look of a six-pack on a woman," Anderson continues. "I like the abs to be flat, but soft and smooth, not rippled with muscle definition."
To get that effect, she says, you have to work the inner, finer muscles by mixing up your moves. Try her signature formula of crunches from various angles, along with a standing ab routine she describes as Bob Fosse-esque with some modern-day eroticism thrown in (here's another version on video). "It's relevant to how we want to move as women."
THE 101: Do the floor moves in one flow, without resting in between. Then stand, turn up the music, and do the same. This concentrated ab-work should be added to your regular workout. "You still have to work the rest of your body, sweat, and burn calories," says Anderson.
Start by lying on a mat, legs straight and apart, as one of Anderson's trainers, Yin Yue, demonstrates.
Now, with your hands placed lightly behind your head, lift from your bra line, crunching only your upper stomach muscles.
Do at least 20 crunches, until you start to feel tired. Go right into the next move, keeping your upper body lifted.
With your upper body lifted, bring your right knee to your left elbow.
Pushing through your right heel, extend your leg straight, keeping the foot off the floor, while the left elbow goes back to the starting position. Repeat the movement (knee and elbow in; then pushing out) 10 to 15 times. After that, do 10 to 15 on the other side.
Keeping your upper body lifted, place your heels on the floor. Left leg is straight, while right knee is bent and turned slightly in.
Now, take the right foot and cross to the left (your knee turns out slightly) and lightly tap the heel to the outside of the left knee. Again, keep your upper body lifted. Cross back to starting position. Do 10- to 15 taps with the right heel. Then switch sides.
Keeping your crunch, bend your legs, knees slightly turned in, heels on the floor.
Now tap the floor with both heels and cross the right leg on top of the left. Go back to the starting position and tap the heels on the floor. Do 10 to 15 with the right leg crossing on top of the left; then do the same thing to the other side.
MOVE ONE: Hands on your hips, feet slightly wider than your shoulders, push your rib cage to the right, then to the left. Continue the side-to-side with the music. The trick is to keep your shoulders parallel to the floor and pelvis still (your rib cage should feel like a dresser drawer sliding). Do 4 sets of 8.
MOVE TWO: Keep doing the same movement but twist your shoulders so you're going on a diagonal. With every move, use your abs to bring you back to the center. Do 2 counts of 8 with your right shoulder forward, then 2 counts of 8 with your left.
MOVE THREE: Keep the twist going but exaggerate it by bringing your right shoulder forward and down, and then raising that arm to open the shoulder and pull yourself back on a diagonal (your arm will rotate). Do 2 counts of 8 with the right shoulder forward, then 2 counts of 8 with the left.
AND IF YOU STILL HAVE ENERGY: Repeat the standing moves. They're fun, sexy, and really work your abs!
For more beach-worthy workouts, go to:
Hot, hot legs (from Jennifer Aniston's trainer)
4 moves for a fabulous butt
Get Michelle Obama's arms
[Photo Credit: Paltrow: Getty Images/Steve Granitz]