Flat abs and a strong core—we all covet them. But for many of us, no matter how many crunches we doggedly crank out, a toned midsection doesn’t seem to be in the cards. This fall, mix up your boring sit-up routine with these five new ways to work your core. We’ve flexed our way through the latest core exercises, including gadgets, workout routines, apps and heavy equipment, to come up with this list of our favorites. With their help—and your sweat—you’ll be toned and taut, sleek and strong in no time.
1) AbMat ($44.95, amazon.com): Take core exercises to the next level with the AbMat, a contoured mat that positions your body to achieve the optimum crunch every time. While normal crunches work only a limited portion of the core, the AbMat—a staple in many CrossFit gyms—offers the full range of motion necessary to target the entire abdominal wall, including the upper and lower abs, lower back and obliques. Another bonus: the AbMat’s safe design provides lower-back support to prevent injury. And, unlike unwieldy fitness balls, the laptop-size AbMat is portable, so you can cram in a killer core workout anytime, anywhere.
2) Shiva Rea Core Yoga DVD ($14.99, amazon.com): You’ve probably heard that yoga gives great arms, but a lean, taut midsection is one of the lesser-known benefits of getting your “om” on. In her latest DVD, world-renowned yoga teacher Shiva Rea promises to deliver the “no crunches way” to flat abs. Drawing from a blend of standing and seated poses—think floor boat, planks and standing twists—Shiva leads you through a dynamic vinyasa series designed to fire up the core and strengthen the lower back. Filmed against the scenic backdrop of White Sands National Park, Core Yoga is a fun and interesting way to relax and get more centered, all while sculpting a lean, strong torso. And, with seven mix-and-match segments to choose from, you can customize a unique core workout every time.
3) Steel ABS A6W ($0.99, App Store): Dreamed of having your own personal trainer but can’t afford the hefty price tag? Now, for less than a dollar, you can have your very own personal trainer from the convenience of your Smartphone. Narrated by Ivan, a cartoon-animated Russian tough-guy who won’t take no for an answer, the Steel ABS A6W app guarantees rock-hard abs in just 42 days and 30 minutes a day. Based on six simple exercises, the program requires no special equipment and very little space, so you can do it virtually anywhere. Plus, convenient voice prompts guide you through the exercises and count down repetitions—so no slacking! With Ivan’s motivation, you’ll be well on your way to abs of steel.
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4) Core Stix ($849.00, corestix.com): The latest piece of cutting-edge fitness equipment, used by elite athletes and celebrities alike, is now coming to a home gym near you. NHL strength and conditioning coach Mike Kadar and NASA engineer Kregg Koch have teamed up to bring you Core Stix, a revolutionary full-body training system suited for individuals of all fitness levels. The compact device—which consists of a set of weighted flexible rods inserted into a base—allows you to perform over 100+ full-body exercises in one small area. From bicep curls to squats to shoulder presses, the possibilities are truly endless! The secret to Core Stix is in the weighted sticks, which offer resistance to continuously challenge and engage the core in an upright position—no crunches required. Plus, every purchase includes an exclusive DVD led by celebrity trainer Gunnar Peterson (who counts Jennifer Lopez and Penelope Cruz among his clients), so you can score A-list abs in no time.
5) Boston Body Barre ($20, amazon.com): Ballet-based workouts are all the rage these days, and it’s no wonder—we all envy dancers for their effortless grace and lithe, lean bodies. Rather than splurging on pricy studio-based barre classes, transform your TV room into a ballet studio with Zayna Gold’s new Boston Ballet Barre DVD, a Pilates and cardio based fitness program specifically designed to tone and tighten stubborn areas such as buttocks, upper arms and—you guessed it—abs. This 60-minute routine, led by Zayna Gold of the uber-trendy Boston Body Pilates center in Boston, Mass., promises to reshape your body and flatten tummies in just 30 sessions. Stick with the program, and the tight, toned abs of a ballerina can be all yours.