A slim, sexy stomach is something most of us covet. Unfortunately, you can't just exercise your way to it. A lot has to do with what you put into your mouth. I find that one contributor to a bloated belly is gluten. That's why I choose to eliminate it from my diet. But not everyone can (or wants to!), especially since it pops up in everything from salad dressing to soy sauce. I advise women to try giving up gluten for a week and see how they feel. Rather not? Simply stick to whole grains, which are a much healthier choice than the overly processed alternatives. A cleaner diet, along with the following moves, will improve your core by the end of the month.
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Get a show-off stomach
Your core is the center of your body. You need to identify it, engage it and have all movements extend from it. It's also key to go beyond basic crunches. They're one-dimensional, hitting only the rectus abdominis (or six-pack). My quickie series targets the midsection from multiple angles, part of the reason why my clients over 40, like J.Lo, still have sculpted abs. Pair with 30 to 60 minutes of cardio and aim to do it six times a week.
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Hip dip plank
Start in plank; tuck right knee into chest. Rotate waist so that outer side of right hip and thigh are facing ground. Lower body until you are sitting on right hip (A). Lift body back up to plank, then raise and extend right leg (B). Return to start. Do 30 to 40 reps; repeat on other side.
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Diagonal pike legs
Lie faceup with legs together and extended straight out. Rotate hips slightly to left so that legs are on a left diagonal. Place left hand lightly on back of head and extend right arm straight out to side, palm facedown (A). Crunch up and lift legs, keeping legs on the diagonal (B). Slowly lower back to floor. Do 30 to 40 reps; repeat on other side.
Make sure abs are engaged from the start.
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Inner thigh crunch lift
Lie faceup with legs extended in a wide split, toes pointing up and hands resting lightly on back of head (A). Rotate right leg out, dropping toe to face outward, and raise leg (B). Using inner thigh, lower leg and return to start. Do 30 to 40 reps; repeat on other side.
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Lie faceup with legs together and extended straight out. Place right hand lightly on back of head and extend left arm straight back overhead, holding a 3-pound weight (A). Bring legs up to 90 degrees; crunch upper and lower body while lifting left arm up and then lowering it forward until it's in line with torso (B). Return to start. Do 30 to 40 reps; repeat on other side. Keep neck neutral so you don't strain it.
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Diet do: Dairy!
If you're after a sleeker middle, add dairy to your diet. Research shows that its proteins increase satiety and cause you to eat less. My choice: homemade Parmesan crisps. Preheat oven to 350; line a baking sheet with parchment. Divide 2 cups grated Parmesan into 2-Tbsp. portions. Form each into a small pile and press with the back of a fork. Bake until melted and flat, 5 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Serve with chopped cooked vegetables (I love spinach, squash or eggplant).