The Perfect Abs Workout

Battle belly fat at home using the only piece of fitness equipment you need—your body

June 10, 2011
woman and man at the beach

It’s time to strip down. Wait—pull your shorts back up, please. It’s time to strip down your workout and eliminate everything that gets in the way of achieving your six-pack: finding time for the gym, pricey home fitness equipment, hundreds and hundreds of situps. What’s left? A challenging, back-to-basics bodyweight routine that tones knockout abs.

Performed three times a week, these belly-shrinking moves, developed by Andrea Metcalf, certified personal trainer and author of Naked Fitness, work every muscle that contributes to your shining six-pack. (Situps that target your upper abs can’t say the same.) Complement the routine with 30 minutes of moderate cardio a day to achieve a body gym rats will envy.


1. Abs Flattener
Works the transverse abdominals

Lie on your back and place your hands under your butt. Lift both legs toward the ceiling. With legs slightly bent, lower the left leg 45 degrees and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. Return your left leg to start, then lower your right leg 45 degrees and hold for 10 to 30 seconds. That’s one rep. Perform 8 to 12 reps.

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Trainer Tip: Exhale as you bring your feet together. This will help stabilize your spine.

2. Waist Whittler
Works obliques and hips

Stand with your feet hip-width apart and arms by your sides. With your left foot, step into a lunge position [link to lunge in Finder], keeping the leading knee aligned over the ankle. Your weight should rest on the ball of the back foot. As you lunge, place your hands behind your head, elbows pointed out. (This helps stretch the chest muscles.)

Twist to the left and bring your right elbow toward your left knee. Keep your spine straight to avoid straining your back. Return to start and switch sides. Lunge with the right foot while placing your hands behind your head, twist to the right, and bring your left elbow toward your right knee. That’s one rep. Perform 20 reps.

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3. Seated V Balance
Works lower abdominals

Find a sturdy chair with armrests. Sit toward the front of the chair, resting your forearms on the armrests, and lean back off your sitz bones (as if you were doing a V-up [link to v-up in Finder]). Staying tall with your chest open, inhale as you draw your knees toward your chest; exhale as you extend your legs toward the ceiling or straight in front of you, parallel to the floor. Perform 10 reps.

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4. Windshield Wiper
Works upper abs, triceps, and glutes

Start in tabletop position. You arms should be straight, with your wrists directly under your shoulders, and knees bent at 90 degrees. Lift your right leg toward the ceiling without allowing your hips to sag. Move your leg behind your body to the left about 20 degrees or as far as your flexibility will allow, and then move it back behind your body to the right to about 20 degrees. That’s one rep. Perform 20 reps on each leg.

“I love this move because it hits my triceps and glutes as well as my obliques—a three-for-one,” says Metcalf.

5. Mini Side Crunch
Works obliques and center abs

Lie on the ground with knees bent and feet on the floor. Extend your left arm out to the side; place your right hand behind your head. Tilt your knees to the left to about 30 degrees, flexibility permitting. Leading with your right elbow, curl up toward your knees. You can use your left forearm to stabilize your side crunch but avoid putting any weight onto it. Return to start. Perform 20 reps on each side.

Make it harder: After tilting your knees to one side, lift your feet off the ground and complete all 20 reps with your legs raised.

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6. Half Core Twists
Works abs and spine

Start in a seated position with your knees bent and feet on the floor. Lean back on your tailbone and raise your left leg toward the ceiling, allowing your back to round slightly. Hold this rounded position and reach both arms out to your sides. Hold for 2 counts. Twist to the left, keeping your arms out to the sides, and hold for 2 counts. Return to center and hold for 2 counts, and then twist to the right and hold for 2 counts. That’s one rep. Perform 10 reps. Switch legs, and repeat the exercise with your right leg.

Make it harder: Each time you return to center, raise your arms above your head.

7. Long Leg Twister
Works obliques and lower abs

Start in a seated position with your legs bent in front of you. Tuck your pelvis under and lean back onto your tailbone, rounding your back. Lift both legs until your feet are at eye level. (Bend your knees slightly if you feel any strain in your lower back.) Bring your hands in front of your chest and point your elbows out. Twist from side to side for 30 seconds.

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8. Splitter
Works obliques and lower abs

Lie on your back and place your hands under your butt. Lift both legs toward the ceiling. With legs slightly bent, lower your left leg 45 degrees and return to start. That’s one rep. Perform 15 reps on your left side, and then hug your knees into your chest for two breaths. Lift your legs again and perform 15 reps on your right side.

Trainer Tip: Keep your lower back pressed into the floor and breathe throughout the movement.