Memorial Day is gone and so is your trim waistline. You don't have time to fool around with silly ab routines now. You need something that works.

So how about the best ab exercise known to man? Or at least to a reputable scientific journal?

It's called a combination swiss ball pike and roll-out.

Sounds like a medieval torture device. But it's actually easy to learn and extremely efficient. In fact, you can probably get a killer ab workout by doing this move fewer than 10 times.

"If someone was looking at one exercise and wanted to make sure he was getting the most abdominal work done in a way that makes him look better and function better," says trainer Nick Tumminello, "this is the exercise to do."

To start the pike/roll-out, simply hold yourself in a pushup position with your feet on a swiss ball. (To make the exercise easier, move the swiss ball towards your belly button) With your body in a plank (straight) position, keep your legs straight and push your hips towards the ceiling while keeping your back flat. After straightening your hips and coming back to the start position, push your body backwards on the ball until your arms are fully extended in front of you and your legs are fully extended behind you.

Here's the video, courtesy of Nick Tumminello:

Why does this work so well? As the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physical Therapy states:

"The roll-out and pike were the most effective exercises in activating upper and lower rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, and latissimus dorsi muscles, while minimizing lumbar paraspinals and rectus femoris activity."

Translation: The exercise forces your abdominals to work the hardest while your lower back and hip flexors -- areas that can take over in other traditional ab exercises -- are almost completely left out. So while a crunch works your abs but only with help from other areas, the roll-out pike isolates your abs much more effectively.

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Remember, this one isn't easy. Don't expect to get dozens (or even a dozen) reps right away.

But if you keep at it, you can expect to get dozens of compliments right away. Or at least by July 4th.

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LeBron James might have more to do before tipoff than after.

On the day of a game, he wakes up at 8 a.m. and eats breakfast before the team's shootaround. He normally hits the weights before practice, then takes a short nap. Then he eats chicken or fish for a pregame meal and heads to the arena to shootaround some more, get a massage and meet with the media. And now, before he steps back onto the court and throws powder into the air, he slips a little something onto his tongue.

It's a new caffeinated product called Sheets energy strips that dissolves in your mouth in seconds and, the pitch says, gives you the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee and a vitamin boost to boot. (Sounds like Five Hour Energy without the bottle.)

Sheets are made by Purebrands LLC, which lists James as a cofounder. Its $10 million marketing campaign is underway in preparation for the product's launch in June. (Although we're not sure if we'd shell out $10M for the unfortunately-named URL

James has endorsed Vitamin Water, along with several athletes, and even owns a stake in England's Liverpool Football Club. But this strip will be his chance to be the face of a product like Michael Jordan was for Gatorade.

MJ's tongue sold a lot of product. But in this saturated market, LBJ will have to get up pretty early in the morning (and take a lot of Sheets) to do the same.

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Even Tony Horton has caved.

The man who brought us the somewhat-revolutionary P90X routine, snubbing the get-fit-quick trend by offering hour-long workouts, is out now with his "10 Minute Trainer."

"Think you can't get a real workout in 10 minutes?" the DVD set proclaims. "Think again. Now you can get Tony Horton-style results in less time -- a lot less."

But open up the DVD set and unfold the training calendar to find Tony suggests not one 10-minute workout per day, but three.

So much for that.

Tony's not the only one, though. Do a Yahoo! Search for "two minute fitness" and you'll get plenty of results. But can you get actual results? Maybe in the short term. Novice lifters who begin a weight training program make progress very quickly. Their bodies adapt quickly to the new stimulus and they make rapid strength gains as they become more "neurologically efficient." But wait, there's less: This type of high-volume program will plateau at some point. That's when the intensity (weight lifted, volume, exercises, speed) must change to continue progress.

So how much time do you really need for a good workout?

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Effective workouts that include a thorough warm-up can be done in as little as 20 minutes -- if you use some unique sequencing techniques.

If you rest for 30-60 seconds only between sets, instead of the usual chat-with-spotter-take-a-drink-and-check-Blackberry routine, you'll get improved strength and some cardio to boot.

Not only that, short and intense workouts will increase metabolism and allow you to be able to recover better and be ready for the next training session. The key is to keep the intensity high and the rest periods short. And use compound movements (i.e. movements that engage multiple muscle groups at the same time). That's how Tony Horton came up with "10 Minute Trainer." He jams two or even three moves into one.

But you don't need Tony. Here's a 20-minute upper body workout -- including warm-up -- that will have you looking better in the time it takes to watch "The Simpsons." (If you want the lower body workout to match, check out the YouTube channel below.)

Warm-up (5 min):
Cable pulls, 1 set of 20
Shoulder Stretches (various angles), 1-2 min
Rotator Cuff 'Y' (lie face down on incline bench and lift light dumbbells upward in line with torso), 1x12
Push-ups, 1x20.

Workout (15 min):
Alternate between dumbbell clean & press, 3x8, and pull-ups, 3x10.
Alternate between dips, 3x15, and barbell bent over rows, 3x8.

Repeat three times.

That's it. Twenty minutes to the new you. I really should market this. But I guess I just gave it away for free.

-- Jim Smith is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. Email him at or check out his YouTube channel at

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Everyone wants a big bench press. It's the ultimate sign of machismo and a true test for wannabe NFL players at the Combine. But it seems the more often you bench, the worse you feel. You get discouraged and either stop benching altogether or just try to bench more, which eventually leads to an injury. Not good.

But many common problems with the bench press can be fixed with just a few simple changes in your workout. In fact, to get better at benching, sometimes it is better not to bench at all, at least for a short time. Give yourself a break and start over. Take a few steps back and work on the basics. If you know some of the major myths about how you approach your bench press training workouts, you'll be stronger, healthier and remain injury-free for a long time.

Myth: The bench press is just a chest exercise

Most lifters don't realize the bench press is a full body lift: You need a tight grip on the bar, a braced core and hips that drive the feet downward. Also, the strength of your triceps, lats and shoulders plays a big role in your ability to press more weights. Another big technique flaw lies in the elbows. If someone looked straight down on you while you're bench pressing and sees your elbows flared out, you are putting too much stress on your shoulders. This can cause some serious shoulder issues. The elbows should track about 45 degrees out from your torso during the lift.

Myth: The bench press is built on the bench

Once people start bench pressing in the gym, they forget about doing push-ups. Unlike bench pressing with a rigid barbell and your back fixed on the bench, push-ups are a more natural movement. Push-ups also promote strength and mobility of the upper back and the shoulder blades. They also are an amazing core exercise, as when you are doing push-ups, you are in a plank position. If you do push-ups properly, you'll be amazed at how your posture changes and how your bench press increases. Don't forget push-ups can be overloaded with a partner providing manual resistance or holding an Olympic plate on your upper back.

Myth: Bench press starts when you grab the bar

When most lifters come into the gym after a long day at the office, their idea of a warm-up is a few sets benching an empty bar. Sorry. A thorough warm-up is essential, and your entire upper-body should be used in the process. I know what you’re saying: "I don't have enough time!" But warming up isn't an option; it's mandatory. And a good warm-up can take as little as 10-15 minutes, if you move progressively through each exercise.

The best part about busting these myths is that you can watch your buddies struggle to lift the bar, show them how it's done, and then shrug as you grin and say, "That's weird. I never do bench press."

-- Jim Smith is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist who has written for publications such as "Men's Health," "Muscle & Fitness" and "Oxygen." Visit his website at

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