If an exercise seems too good to be true, it probably is—especially when it promises to give you a flat stomach.

By Christina Oehler
June 26, 2020
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Let's face it: sit-ups can be rough—your abs burn, your neck tenses up, your hips start to get sore. The truth: A toned stomach takes a lot of hard work (or a lot of cash, if you can consider the Emsculpt route); and even after pounding out set after set of crunches, you're not destined to get washboard abs—those enviable six-packs are based just as much on genetics as they are the amount of work you put in. So when someone tells you about a new quick fix for a toned core—like a "flat-stomach" hack that includes just lying down—it's smart to be extra skeptical.

That's the case with a recent viral video posted by TikTok user @tiabagha promising flat abs. The routine goes like this: Lie on the floor with a rolled-up towel placed underneath your lower back (right behind your navel) and extend your arms and legs away from your body. Point your toes inward until they touch, and touch your pinky fingers together so that your palms face the floor. Lay there for five minutes, once a day for 10 days—that's it.

Since the video was first posted, it's received over 2.8 million likes and thousands of comments, and has even gotten some attention from Cassey Ho, fitness influencer and creator of Blogilates—but not in a good way. "I AM SO SICK OF FAKE FITNESS INFORMATION GOING VIRAL," Ho wrote in an Instagram post shared Wednesday, showing her performing the move to prove that the towel trick is "the latest trend that needs squashing."

Ho went on to explain the origin of the move, which was actually invented by Japanese reflexology and massage specialist, Dr. Toshiki Fukutsudzi. According to Ho, Fukutsudzi came up with the stretch to help with lower back pain and fix your spine, but he also claimed that the move could help you lose weight by correcting the placement of the pelvis—that last part isn't true, says Ho.

"If all you had to do was lay down to get abs, we would all have six-packs by taking naps," said Ho, adding that, if you're really on a journey to get abs, you'll have to put in a lot of work—and even they, a washboard stomach may not be genetically-possible for you, because all bodies are different. "I am literally telling you right now that there is no shortcut," she said.

Mallory Creveling, ACE-CPT, a personal trainer based in New York City, agrees, explaining that while the move isn't necessary bad for you, it's not going to whip you into shape like it claims to. "While the towel trick might benefit body alignment (it could potentially help counteract a forward pelvic tuck posture), I'm sorry to say it wouldn't do much for weight loss," she says. "There's just no quick trick for that."

That said, towels do deserve a spot in your core workouts—just not in the way the viral TikTok shares. "A towel can be a really good tool for increasing core strength," she explains. "You can use it for moves like a body saw, knee tucks, and pike-ups." Using a towel can also help enhance your post-workout stretching routine, by helping you go deeper into stretches when you struggle with flexibility.

Overall, as much as we'd love to lie on the floor for a few minutes a day instead of sweat it out at the gym, toned abs are going to take a little more work than that, if that's your goal. If you need a place to start, you can check out this 10-move core workout or this fun, at-home boxing work out. But, fair warning: You're going to move and sweat.

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