3 Ab Exercises That Give You More Definition In Less Time

With the side plank as your starting point, add movement and rotation to take it to the next level.

On the journey toward toned abs, crunches tend to be a workout staple. However, the side plank is a real powerhouse exercise, targeting deep abdominal muscles that other moves don't reach. The standard version of the side plank is effective, but fitness instructor Amy Dixon says there's one way you can take your workout to a completely new level.

"By adding movement and rotation to your side plank, you'll use the same ab muscles as you would if you stayed in one position, but you'll make the muscle fiber stretch and contract," Dixon explains. "[This] means you'll get more definition and tone in less time."

Better results in a shorter time period? Yes, please.

Dixon demonstrates three variations of the side plank, each designed to give you an even more effective ab workout.

Add movement:

Side Plank Hip Drops

Have your shoulders, hips and ankles all aligned on top of each other, then drop your hips to the ground and lift back up.

Add rotation:


Get into the side plank position and lift your top arm in the air. Then, reach that arm under your torso and behind you, twisting your torso as you do it.

Add difficulty:

Side Plank with Leg Fans

For a really big challenge, get into a side plank and extend your top leg out in front of you. Hold for a beat, then in a half-circle motion, bring it up and over your bottom leg and extend it out behind you.

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Runners of a certain age are often encouraged to enjoy every mile while they're still healthy because their knees are doomed. And it's true that with every sneaker-clad step, you hit the ground with enormous force -- it's estimated to be about eight times your body weight. But all that pounding does not substantially increase the risk of knee arthritis in healthy people, several studies have concluded--including one of almost 75,000 runners. While runners hit the ground harder, they also take longer strides and fewer steps, and therefore hit the ground less often. So, over time, running produces no more wear and tear on the knees than walking. (Note: Runners' knees could still be susceptible to injuries unrelated to arthritis, like patellofemoral pain syndrome, which can happen at any age.)
Certain Exercises Can Elongate Your Muscles.
The proponents of this myth (hint: They're usually wearing a leotard) swear that stretching, reaching, contracting and pulsing moves can help you develop longer, leaner muscles (as opposed to those infamous "bulky" muscles you often hear about -- which probably wouldn't ever happen because your testosterone level is naturally too low). In Pilates and ballet-style workouts, you isolate different muscles and tighten them, then slowly control the release (or you contract, contract more, contract more, hold...then release). Instead of putting a heavy load on the muscle (in the form of a dumbbell, for example), you work against gravity and your body's own resistance. These moves cannot permanently lengthen the muscle, says Jessica Matthews, an associate professor of exercise science at Miramar College in San Diego. Nothing can, because muscles are attached to the bone at specific points, so the only way to lengthen them is to surgically detach and reattach them. However, Pilates and other dance-inspired exercises can improve your flexibility, increase joint mobility and significantly strengthen all of the muscles that make up your core, Matthews says. When your core is stronger, you stand straighter, and you'll probably look taller -- even if your muscles have not grown in length.
Muscle Weighs More Than Fat -- So Despite What The Scale Says, You're Still Losing Weight.
You've amped up your workouts to include weightlifting, but you notice the numbers on the scale slowly creeping up instead of down. Must be because of all that heavy muscle you're putting on, right? Matthews explains that you should be still be losing fat, and it's unlikely that it will be "replaced" by weight in the form of muscle. So if you are gaining weight, it's more likely due to the extra calories you may be consuming (consciously or unconsciously) to recover from your workouts. Beware of calorie-packed protein drinks and bars marketed for gym-goers, and refuel with healthy snacks like low-fat chocolate milk or nuts.
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