1. Ditch crunches and sit-ups.

Contrary to popular opinion, crunches and sit-ups will not yield flat abs – no matter how many you do. These exercises actually bulge the abdominal wall forward, which over time will separate the rectus abdominis (your 6-pack muscles), causing a pooch and widening your waistline. Instead of the classic crunch…

  1. Perform planks with pulses.

The key to an effective plank is keeping your abs absolutely flat throughout, and pulsing the belly button even tighter to the spine with each exhalation. If you cannot keep the abs flat to the spine on the floor in a full plank, then begin with an incline plank. You can place your hands on a kitchen counter, a sturdy piece of furniture, or even a park bench. Then draw the entire body into a straight line and hold the position, abs flat, as you pulse the belly button tighter to the spine 15-30 times. Remember to exhale with each pulse. Repeat for 3-5 sets, 4-6 days per week. As you get stronger, lower the incline gradually until you’re doing a full body plan on the floor.

Optional modification: If your wrists bother you, you may perform the plank on your forearms. In this case, start with knee planks on the floor. As you get stronger, you can gradually incorporate full body forearm planks (toes on the floor instead of knees).

By Leah Keller, Creator of The Dia Method. Learn more about Leah at leahkeller.com.