Shhhh …. I’m about to let you in on a BIG SECRET. Want to become an expert at working your abs? There’s a simple formula that is infinitely changeable, customizable and modifiable and (as a result) PERFECT for crushing your ab muscles! On your own!

(disclaimer: as always, warm up before you work out, get your doctor’s OK, if something hurts or seems questionable for your body stop doing it, and NEVER RUN WITH SCISSORS!)

Equipment needed:
Your body
(you can add a dumbbell, a medicine ball, or stability ball, but you don’t need them)

How to do it:
First, do a front flexion exercise. That’s trainer talk for something like a crunch, flexing your body FORWARD. Or your knees UP.  (Regular crunches, reverse crunches, knee-ups, stability ball crunches, stability ball roll-ins …. you get the picture.) How many reps? I don’t know. Pick a  number. If it’s too easy, do more.

Next, do a lateral flexion exercise. Again, that’s trainer talk for anything that has your body moving to the side, like a bicycle or side crunch (or Russian twist, woodchop, hip raise, etc.). You’re in charge of how many — but don’t be a baby. Push it a little.

And then finish it off with a static hold — like a plank or any of the gazillion plank variations you can find in books or online (hands on ball, shoulder taps, spiderman planks, feet on bench, hands on bench). Go for time, or if you’re doing a fancy variation, maybe go for reps.

Rest, and repeat.

This can be as simple or as challenging as you choose, depending on your exercise choice, whether you add a stability element (like doing it on an unstable surface or adding additional body movements), or adding resistance.

When it comes to adding resistance, however, another piece of trainerly advice — when you add resistance to your side movements (your obliques), you run the risk of BUILDING those muscles. Most of us are not going for bigger/”thicker” middles. So be judicious in your weight choices, if you choose to use weight at all for those exercises. I favor adding a stability element.

(And again, as always: if you have a layer of fat covering your ab muscles, no amount of crunches will blast it off — that’s a nutrition issue.)