3 Things to Know About Getting Flat Abs

Don't let these common tummy-toning questions come between you and a slim stomach! Trainers reveal how to get flat abs fast.

Q. Should I train my abs at the end of my workout?
A. It depends. There's some validity to the claim that training your abs last preserves your core strength for the earlier parts of your workout: "If you're going to do squats or multimuscle exercises like push-ups or lunges that require a lot of balance, you might want to do abs last so your core is fresh and strong," says certified trainer and fitness author Kurt Brungardt. The caveat? "The danger of always putting your ab workout at the end is that people run out of time and end up never training them," notes Auckland, New Zealand-based certified trainer Kathryn M. Clark. So the best time to do ab moves is truly whenever you're most likely to actually do them.

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Q. If abs are endurance muscles, do I have to do hundreds of reps to get results?
A. No. Abs do have greater endurance than most muscle groups, but you don't need crazy amounts of reps if you know how to do your ab workouts right. "Doing an exercise with proper form, using slow, controlled motions, is an excellent way to maximize results," says Stuart Rugg, Ph.D., chair of the department of kinesiology at Occidental College in Los Angeles. If you're using correct form, there should be no reason to exceed two or three sets of 25 reps of any ab exercise you do. This ab workout gets you maximum benefit in a short amount of time.

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Q. What's the deal with sit-ups - are they safe and do they work?
A. Yes - but only if they're done correctly. "When done in a controlled manner without the use of momentum, a sit-up can be a very effective ab-training exercise," says Wayne Westcott, Ph.D., fitness research director at the South Shore YMCA in Quincy, Mass. So why the bad rap? "People with low-back pain have tight hip flexors and are advised not to do sit-ups. Sit-ups work the hip flexors a good deal and might exacerbate the issue," Westcott says. "But really, sit-ups can be done by the majority of the population." To safely get the most out of a full sit-up, follow instructions for the basic crunch, moving slowly in both directions, lifting up to an almost-seated position. If your neck aches, lightly cup one hand behind it for support.

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