Excess fat under the belly button (that little area you might call a "pooch") is a common trouble area. Since it's not possible to spot reduce, you'll need to tone your ab muscles with core work and decrease your overall body fat with a combination of a healthy diet and regular workout plan that includes cardio. Certified personal trainer Jessica Smith created this core-centric circuit that can be done up to four days a week. Perform each exercise for the recommended number of reps, back to back with little to no rest in between. Repeat the full circuit up to three times total. All you'll need for the workout are two hand towels if you're working out on a smooth floor or paper plates if you're on carpet.
1. Forward Sliding Pike
The forward sliding pike is a challenging move that works multiple muscles at once -- with a major emphasis on your abs, shoulders and arms -- to burn more calories in less time. Begin in a pike position with knees bent with hands on towels. Your body should resemble an upside down letter 'V'. Squeeze abs in tight to spine and slide your right hand away from body, bending left elbow for more support. Return to start. Do 20 alternating reps. Too challenging? Try this movement from an all-fours position instead.
2. Squat Jumps
Time for a quick cardio interval! This explosive total body power move blasts away major calories while engaging some of the largest muscles in your body (legs and glutes). Start standing with your feet slightly wider than hip width. Lower yourself into a squat position, keeping knees behind your toes and bending elbows by your sides. Jump up quickly reaching arms overhead, landing (softly) in a squat position. Do as many reps as possible for 30 seconds – always keeping good form.
3. Sliding Knee Tucks
The sliding knee tuck is a sliding plank variation that works deep into the abdominals and targets the chest and arms too. Begin in a full plank position with feet on towels, slightly wider than hip width apart. Draw your bellybutton into your spine and bend knees, drawing legs together and in towards your chest. Return to start. Do 10 controlled reps.
4. Power Skips
Skipping is not only fun exercise, it's also a great way to get your heart rate up quickly and tap into the fast-twitch muscle fibers in your legs. Stand with your feet together, arms by your side. Skip forward by stepping your left foot forward and jumping up, driving left knee in front of hip and swinging arms to help power the movement. Immediately repeat on with other side to complete 1 rep. Try 5 reps forwards and 5 reps backwards, as many times as possible for 30 seconds.
5. Reverse Plank Slide
Zero in on the lower part of the abdominal wall, and work your arms and shoulders in the process with this double-duty move. Begin seated with legs straight, hip width apart, toes pointed, heels on towels, and hands behind hips fingertips facing body. Lift your hips up into a reverse plank position, pressing down through heels and hands. Draw abs in tighter to spine and, keeping pelvis off the floor, slowly slide hips back behind your hands, flexing your feet and legs slide back. Press forward and slide back up into reverse plank position to complete 1 rep. Do 10 slow, controlled reps. Are your hips not making it off the floor? Make this easier by placing a yoga block under each hand and/or decreasing your range of motion.
6. Plank Sliding Climbers
Crank up your cardio without the impact by smoothing out traditional mountain climbers. Begin in a full plank position with your feet on the towels, hip width apart. Engage abs and bend your left knee up towards your chest. The towels will make it easier for your legs to slide in and out. Alternate legs as quickly as possible for 30 seconds.
7. Double Crunch Curl
Isolate the lower part of the abdominal wall with this challenging move that requires a lot of core control. Lie on your back face up with your legs bent at 90-degrees, arms extended by your sides, palms on top of towels. Exhale and lift your head and shoulders off the floor as the pelvis tilts up and your hips lift slightly off the floor, drawing knees in towards nose (avoid swinging legs). Slowly lower hips and head to start position. Do 10 controlled reps.
8. Sliding Squat Thrust
This low impact version of a traditional squat thrust may be smoother, but don't be fooled, it's just as challenging for your heart. Plus, the sliding motion adds an extra challenge for the abs. Stand with your feet on towels, hip width apart, with arms extended overhead. Squat down to floor, placing hands under shoulders and slide legs out to a full plank position (keep abdominals drawn in tight, and avoid letting lower back sag.) Then, slide your legs back into squat position and return to start. Do as many reps as quickly as possible with good form for 30 seconds.
9. Held Double Diamond Crunch
This move works the abdominal wall (with an extra emphasis on the lower half) to help develop strong, pulled in, flat muscles across your front. Lie on your back face up, with your hands clasped behind your head, elbows open to sides and head and shoulders lifted off the floor; knees bent and open to sides with inside edges of feet pressed together. (Legs should make a diamond shape.) Slowly lift hips and lower back off the floor, drawing knees in towards elbows. (Upper body should remain still.) Lower to return to starting position, rolling through spine to lower hips with control. Do 10 controlled reps.
10. Traveling Jacks
Time for another cardio burst! Spice up your traditional jumping jack with a little change of direction to work your muscles in a new way to boost your calorie burn. Do 4 jumping jacks, moving to the left as feet come together. Do 4 jacks back to the right. Repeat as many times as possible for 30 seconds.
11. Scissor Crunches
Target your obliques with this Pilates-inspired waist whittler that involves the muscles of the legs to help boost your calorie burn and challenge your abs even more. Lie on your back face up with your legs extended as straight as possible above hips, hands clasped behind head. Lift your head and shoulders off the floor, turning the left shoulder into right leg as legs scissor open, drawing the right leg into body, and then lower your left leg until it's almost parallel to the floor. (NOTE: You can make this easier by bending your knees.) Return to start. Do 20 alternating reps.
12. Sprint on the Spot
The last cardio interval is a tough one! Go all out with your effort for this last 30-second burst for a big finish to the circuit Run in place, driving your knees up toward your chest, and pump your arms back and forth as fast as possible for 30 seconds.
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