Here are nine great exercises for toning your midsection. Remember, the ol’ Pilates trick of pulling the belly button in ensures that you’re working the deepest ab muscle (known as the transverse), which helps create a sleek midriff.

The exercises are divided into three sections: upper abs, obliques, and lower abs. You can approach this workout three different ways: pick one exercise from each section and perform two to three sets, pick two exercises from each section and do one to two sets, or for the ultimate boredom buster, do one set of all nine exercises.

Combining these exercises with regular cardio and clean eating and incorporating these flat-belly foods into your diet will help you keep flat abs throughout the year.

Upper Abs: Crunches on Exercise Ball

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Sit on a well-inflated exercise ball. For information on what diameter ball to use, read “Ball Size Matters.”
Place your hands behind your head, and walk your feet away from the ball so your torso starts to roll onto the ball. The ball should support your hips and the curve of your lower back. Your legs should form a bridge with your knees bent at right angles.
Exhale and lift your upper body by about 45 degrees, pulling the deep abs in toward the spine, and return to starting position. Don’t yank your neck! Do 25 reps.

Upper Abs: Pilates 100s

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Start lying on your back with your legs in tabletop position (hips and knees at right angles). Engage your deep abs to round your lower spine into the floor. Make sure you are not “pooching” your abs, which means you are just working the top layer of abs, which is a Pilates no-no.
Exhale and lift your upper back off the floor, until the bottom tips of your shoulder blades skim the floor. Straighten your legs to a 45-degree angle (but make sure your low back is staying connected to the floor). Reach your arms toward your feet. Your arms will be about two inches off the floor.
Pump your arms up and down with a small range of motion, keeping your elbows straight. Inhale for five arm pumps, and exhale for five pumps. That completes one set or cycle. Repeat the cycle nine more times for a total of 100 pumps.
Keep your upper body stable while your arms pump.

All Abs: Elbow Plank

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Start on the floor resting on your forearms and knees.
Step your feet out one at a time, coming into a plank position.
Contract your abs to prevent your booty from sticking up or sinking. Your spine should be parallel to the floor, with your abs pulling toward the ceiling.
Hold 30 seconds, and work your way up to one minute as you get stronger.
If you’re bored with static plank, you can always take them for a walk to challenge your abs even more.

Obliques: Bicycle Crunches

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Considered one of the most effective ab exercises, this move really works the obliques.

Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground (pull your abs down to also target your deep abs). Interlace your fingers, and put your hands behind your head.
Bring your knees in toward your chest, and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
Now switch sides and do the same motion on the other side to complete one rep (and to create the “pedaling” motion). Do this exercise with slow and controlled motion.
Do 10 to 20 reps.

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