Get Your Abs Back

Try these moves for a tighter core and a boost in con­fi­dence—just in time for chas­ing-af­ter-your-tod­dler-in-a-swim­suit sea­son.

Parents (USA) - - Contents - By MARY AN­DER­SON / pho­to­graph by THAYER ALLYSON GOWDY

This work­out’s just in time for chas­ing af­ter your tod­dler in a swim­suit!

WHEN A WOMAN emerges from preg­nancy, her abs are pretty much guar­an­teed to be weak, even if she ex­er­cised for all nine months. “It hap­pens be­cause the abs have been overly elon­gated,” ex­plains Michele Ol­son, PH.D., an ad­junct pro­fes­sor of sport sci­ence at Hunt­ing­don Col­lege, in Mont­gomery, Alabama. For­tu­nately, the dam­age doesn’t have to be per­ma­nent.

The con­nec­tive tis­sue (or fas­cia) of the ab­dom­i­nal wall—not the ab­dom­i­nal mus­cles—is what stretches most to ac­com­mo­date your grow­ing bump. For your abs to tighten back up, they need to re­gain their mus­cle mem­ory, so to speak. “Af­ter preg­nancy, your abs have to re­learn how to work in their nor­mal range,” says Car­rie Pagliano, DPT, owner of Car­rie Pagliano Phys­i­cal Ther­apy, in Ar­ling­ton, Vir­ginia. “The good news is that you can achieve great ab con­di­tion­ing at all stages—whether it’s six weeks post­de­liv­ery or af­ter you’ve had your third child.”

Our two-pronged plan can get you there. All it takes: 30 to 40 min­utes of ex­er­cise three or four times a week. You’ll burn the fat that’s cov­er­ing up your abs through car­dio and sculpt and tighten the un­der­ly­ing mus­cles via tailored ex­er­cises. Keep up the rou­tine for a few weeks, and you’ll start to see and feel flat­ter and leaner re­sults.


High-in­ten­sity in­ter­val train­ing, aka HIIT, is as close as you can get to zero­ing in on lin­ger­ing ab­dom­i­nal fat. Nu­mer­ous stud­ies show that do­ing HIIT is more ef­fec­tive at burn­ing off ab fat se­lec­tively (it mo­bi­lizes cer­tain fa­tre­leas­ing hor­mones called cat­e­cholamines) than do­ing steady car­dio, like tra­di­tional jog­ging or lap swim­ming. Spin, take a sweaty cir­cuit class, or sim­ply al­ter­nate push­ing your pace for a minute and then go­ing easy for a minute. Aim to do car­dio or HIIT at least three times a week, ideally for 20 min­utes or more.


Com­pres­sion moves (think navel-to-spine ex­er­cises) like planks flat­ten your stom­ach by draw­ing in the deep­est ab mus­cle, the trans­verse ab­do­mi­nis. Of­ten re­ferred to as the TVA or TA, this mus­cle is the only one in your core that does a full 360 around your waist, which means it has su­pe­rior cinch-you-in pow­ers, says Dr. Ol­son. Once you strengthen your TVA, you can move on to more in­tense ex­er­cises like jack­knives or ply­o­met­rics, which also re­cruit your su­per­fi­cial ab mus­cles—the obliques and rec­tus ab­do­mi­nis. “Then your ab strength and def­i­ni­tion will come even quicker,” says Anna Kaiser, founder of AKT stu­dios, in New York, Con­necti­cut, and Los An­ge­les.

Kaiser de­signed these five moves to tighten your deep­est ab mus­cles. They’re safe for every fit­ness level, and the whole cir­cuit takes about 15 min­utes. Through­out, re­mem­ber to fo­cus hard on squeez­ing your abs. Aim to com­plete the rou­tine three or more times each week.

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