Changing hormones. Childbirth. A stunted metabolism. Gravity. If any or all of the above have caused your belly to become a rounder, puffier version of your stomach of yesteryear, we have good news. You don't have to order a lifetime supply of Spanx, and you don't need to work out harder or longer to get a flatter, stronger core -- just smarter.
We partnered with yoga guru Kimberly Fowler to create Flat Belly Yoga!, the master of core-conditioning programs for age 40-plus. It uses juiced-up yoga routines -- basic poses combined with light weight lifting—to transform your midsection.
"Yoga is known for its relaxation and flexibility benefits, but it's also a full-body workout that strengthens and lengthens your core muscles. When you add light weights, you'll amp up yoga's belly-firming power by boosting calorie burn, revving metabolism, and building calorie-burning muscle mass, all of which add up to a leaner, tighter core," says Fowler, 55. She started experimenting with light weights and yoga to keep her own body in tip-top shape, and she now shares the hybrid workout with more than 500 students a day at YAS Fitness Centers, her studios in California.
These souped-up moves are gentle, but you'll feel them going to work immediately on your core, especially the transverse abdominis. "This muscle acts like a natural girdle -- think Spanx. Strengthening it will automatically give your belly a flatter appearance," says Fowler.
Aim to do this practice 6 times a week. Do the routine without weights until you're comfortable with the poses. Focus on your breath and take your time; doing a pose correctly requires more core strength than doing it fast and sloppily. Stay connected to your core throughout each pose, keeping your abs engaged. For faster results, repeat the main sequence 2 or 3 times.
Ready for a strong, slender stomach? You'll need a yoga mat and a set of 3-pound dumbbells.
Bring knees together and roll down onto back. Extend left leg straight out on floor.
Bring right knee toward left side of room while keeping shoulder blades on floor.
Extend right arm straight out from shoulder and look to right. Hold for 30 seconds.
Repeat on opposite side.
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Lying on back and hugging knees to chest, rock back and forth from shoulders to hips. Once you get up momentum, rock up onto feet and stand up. (You can make it easier by using your hands to push yourself up.) Take deep breath and, exhaling, bend forward at hips. Bend knees and grab hold of dumbbells. Inhaling, slowly roll up to standing. Raise arms toward ceiling while holding dumbbells.
Stand with legs together, feet touching. Sink hips back and down as though about to sit in a chair. Bend elbows and bring weights up to chest. Slowly extend arms behind you, squeezing triceps. Repeat 5 times. Return to standing.
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Holding dumbbells, step back with left leg about 3 feet and bend right knee to 90-degree angle. Raise arms toward ceiling, keeping upper body straight, coming into Warrior I. Make sure hips and shoulders are squared (aligned and facing forward).
Bend elbows and slowly bring dumbbells down to shoulder height, then raise them back up. Keep elbows in and palms facing each other. Repeat 5 times. Next place dumbbells on shoulders. Hold pose for 60 seconds. Slow transition to the next pose.
Begin in Warrior I, right leg forward. Shift hips and shoulders to left, coming into Warrior II. Extend arms at shoulder height, palms up. Curl weights toward shoulders, then return them to shoulder height. Repeat 5 times.
Keeping arms extended, flip palms down. Lift arms a few inches and hold a few seconds before lowering arms to shoulder height. Repeat 5 times.
Return to standing. Repeat poses 5 and 6 on opposite side.
Come down to floor or mat with knees together and sit on feet. Holding dumbbells, bring hands to tops of thighs, palms facing down. Take a deep breath in and, exhaling, slowly (an inch at a time) come up onto knees, raising arms in front of you and lifting dumbbells toward ceiling. Using core strength, slowly lower back down (an inch at a time) and return to starting position. Repeat 5 times, moving slowly and with control.
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Begin seated with knees bent, feet on floor. Grab dumbbells. Bring knees together, then raise feet off floor and cross arms at chest, keeping spine straight and chest lifted. Keeping belly tight, lower torso a few inches, then come back up and straighten arms alongside knees. Hold for 10 seconds. Repeat 5 times.
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Lie faceup with knees bent and feet flat on floor. Bring heels close enough to butt that you can brush them with your longest fingertip. Grab dumbbells. Lift arms up and over, lowering them behind head while lifting hips into air. Once backs of hands touch floor, slowly reverse the move, lowering hips. Repeat 5 times. Hug knees to chest and rock side to side, massaging back.
Lie down, straighten legs, and allow feet to fall to sides. Rest arms by sides, palms facing up. Close eyes. Inhale deeply through nose and exhale from mouth. Take 2 more deep breaths and allow body to relax. Remain in pose at least 2 minutes. To end your practice, gently roll onto right side and push up to seated position.
Copy Kim's expert form and boost your results with the Flat Belly Yoga DVD!
Adapted from Flat Belly Yoga! by Kimberly Fowler and the editors of Prevention, copyright 2013 Rodale Inc. Available wherever books are sold.
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