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Get in Shape for Body-Baring Bikini Season

Bikinis are no longer just for the young. After a decade in which adult women tended to shy away from exposing too much skin on the beach, many more now are daring to buy a two-piece swimsuit this summer. Our fitness expert Minna Lessig demonstrates how you can get your abs in shape for those body-baring suits.

Bikini season is back again, but Minna explains that uncovering the sleek, sexy stomach you want takes more than just crunches. It also involves doing cardiovascular exercise, following a healthy diet--laying off sugary foods that have no nutritional content--and training your abdominal muscles to be good at stabilizing your spine--core stability work.

It is important to do both mobilizing and stabilizing work for the abdominal muscles. Most people only do mobilizing exercises--that is, they do crunches, which only work to flex the torso (bend your torso forward). Core stability work involves strengthening the abdominal and lower back (the core) and by definition it is the ability to keep the spine straight or elongated from the tailbone to the top of the head with the shoulders and hips level and in line. The exercise ball, yoga, and Pilates exercises improve core strength because they consist of exercises that challenge the abs and lower back to keep the spine straight while the body is in positions of relative instability.

One Pilates-based movement targets the lower portion of the abdominals. Crunches only really exhaust the upper portion (and I say "portion" because the rectus abdmoninus is all one long muscle).

Doing an exercise ball roll out mimics the motion of all those ab gadget machines like the ab roller, ab doer, torso track, etcetera. Uses the same muscles--abdominal, lower back, hip flexors, lats (back), and chest. It can be done in two different ways.
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