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You don’t have to drop to the mat and do dozens of crunches to tone your midsection. Standing ab exercises, when combined with regular cardio activity, can potentially tone your stomach muscles, tighten your core, and even improve your posture and balance. But before you start any new workout plan, always get approval from your doctor.

Weighted Oblique Twist

For this twist, you’ll need a dumbbell, medicine ball or other heavy object. Begin by standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, knees slightly bent. Hold the weighted object comfortably in front of you. On an inhale, lift the weight to shoulder height, keeping your arms straight. Exhale and move the weight slowly to the left, to the right and then back to center, all while keeping your arms straight and core steady. Fitness coach Traci D. Mitchell suggests doing three sets of 20 reps of the move. As you twist, keep your hips square and your shoulders back and down.

Jackknives

Miami-based personal trainer, Laura London, encourages clients to work on standing ab exercises like jackknives because they minimize strain on the neck and upper back. To do a jackknife, stand with feet hip-width apart and hands joined overhead. Tighten your ab muscles and pull your shoulders back and down. On an exhale, pull your abs in and lower your hands at the same time you kick up one of your legs. Your hands and the kicking foot should meet in about the middle of your body. For an easier, modified version, leave out the kick. For a more intense, aerobic version, hop up on each kick. Do two sets of 20 reps each.

Standing Crunches

There are several ways to crunch while standing. One of the most basic is to step into a backward lunge and then quickly lift the stepping knee up to the chest, crunching the upper body down at the same time. An alternative is to stand straight up and perform alternating side knee raises, crunching down with your corresponding arm at the same time. Want more of an oblique workout? Work those side abs by crunching one elbow down to the opposite knee, then switching sides. Perform standing crunches in two or three 30-second sets.

Stretching and Strengthening

Standing ab exercises are great for toning muscle, but they won’t spot reduce fat. If you need to drop some belly fat before you can see your ab muscles, try running, doing calisthenics, playing active sports or performing other cardio exercise on most days of the week (again, after consulting your doctor and getting the go-ahead). Begin every exercise session with a brief, dynamic warm-up and a short cool-down that includes stretching and recovery time. Finally, remember that exercise is only part of the equation for flat abs. Nutrition is also important, so eat healthfully as part of your fitness plan.

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