1) Plank: When performed correctly, a simple plank is one of the most effective ways to tighten your entire core. Proper form is key. Keep your back flat and your belly button pulled in toward your spine.
Lie face down on mat resting on your forearms, palms flat on the floor. Push off the floor, raising up onto your toes and resting on your elbows. Keep your back flat, in a straight line from head to heels. Tilt your pelvis and contract your abdominals to prevent your rear end from sticking up in the air or sagging in the middle.
2) Mountain Climbers: This vigorous variation of a standard plank kicks the core tightening up a notch. Angling your knees toward the opposite shoulder is a wonderful way increase the intensity even more.
Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart on the ground in a push-up position. Bring one knee to your chest and then back to the starting position, alternate each leg quickly.
3) Russian Twist: Nothing quite brings the burn like a properly done set of Russian Twists. By holding a medicine ball or dumbbell in your hands, the exercise becomes even more effective.
Sit on the floor with knees bent like in a "sit-up" position. The feet should be kept together and slightly off the floor. Keep your torso straight and your back off the ground at a 45 degree angle. Hold a medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands. Next, the arms should be swung from one side to another in a twisting motion, with each swing to a side counting as one repetition. Move slowly for a more challenging workout.
4) Knee Tucks: All too often I see people neglect their lower abs in favor of quicker, easier exercises. The fact is that our lower abs typically need the most work, so give them the attention that they need with these Knee Tucks.
Start on your back, bend your knees with your feet on the floor and knees touching. Extend both arms overhead on either side of your ears, palms facing up. Exhale and bring your knees up towards your chest. Slowly lower your hips back down to start position.
5) Side Bridges: In yet another variation of the fantastic plank, Side Bridges are much more challenging that they appear at first glance. While the focus is mainly on your waist, due to the stabilizing nature of this exercise, you’re also working your entire core as a whole.
Put your feet and legs together as you lie on your right side. Place your right arm under your body and lift your upper body so that your right elbow is directly under your shoulder. Your left hand should be resting on your left hip. From this position, slowly raise your hips from the ground until a straight line is formed from your ankles to your shoulders. Hold the position for a moment, slowly return to the starting position, and repeat.
Even the best exercise routine in the world is fruitless if you throw away your results with sloppy eating. Remember to keep your meals lean by avoiding processed carbs, packaged foods or fried items. Fill up on lean proteins and fresh vegetables and reward yourself with organic, seasonal fruit. That, my friend, is lean living!
Dr. Tony Tanzi: Physical Therapist, Triathlete, Runner, Performance Coach