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Yoga

​Plank pose is one of the best ways to build core strength as well as strength and stability in the wrists, arms, shoulders and quadriceps. HOW TO DO IT: Start in downward dog. Roll forward onto the balls of your feet and lower your hips so that your shoulders come directly over your wrists and your hips are in line with the top of your head and shoulders. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted and your leg muscles engaged. Beginners can modify the pose by lowering their knees to the ground while keeping a straight, solid line through the knees, hips and head.
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Yoga

People spend a lot of time sitting with their hips at 90 degrees. "Over time, this can create a host of problems, including limited mobility in your joints," says yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. "[Garland pose] helps open the hips and inner thighs and lengthen out the spine. It helps you keep your pelvic and hip joints healthy." HOW TO DO IT: Start with your feet wider than hip-width apart and turn your toes out slightly. Keep your gaze forward and your spine straight as you push your hips back and lower down as if into a chair. The goal is to bring the hips as low as you can without rounding t...
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Yoga

​A foundational pose in many styles of yoga, down dog is the whole package. "It helps strengthen the shoulders, arms and legs; it lengthens out the spine and helps relieve pain in the upper, middle and low back," says Atlanta-based yoga teacher Tracy Sharp. It's also a gentle inversion, which reverses the flow of blood in the body, benefiting the circulatory and lymphatic systems and fighting the effects of gravity on the body. HOW TO DO IT: Starting from a tabletop position with your shoulders directly over your wrists and your hips over your knees, curl your toes under and lift your hips sky...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​You probably won't be able to pull off a triple flip, the iron cross or all those pommel horse spin moves anytime soon, so the L-sit is the closest you're probably going to get to an Olympic gymnastics move. It won't be easy though. HOW TO DO IT: Set two benches parallel to one another a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Get between the benches and hold yourself up with your arms so that your body forms an L shape. Your torso should be perpendicular to the floor, your arms straight at your sides and your legs out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Hold this position.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​One benefit of the weighted carry is that it builds functional strength. You'll probably need that same strength the next time a buddy moves to a new apartment. But in the real world, little variables pop up, says Mike Wunsch, director of training and program design at Results Fitness in Santa Clarita, California. There's a bump in the walking surface or the couch slips in your hand. If your core isn't ready to adjust, you'll fall or get injured. The K-off carry uses a mini band to approximate little adjustments like that so you'll be ready. HOW TO DO IT: Double-wrap a thick mini exercise ban...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Crunches are like Nickelback -- incredibly popular but most people agree they stink. But throw in some incline (gravity!) and reverse the movement and you've got a whole new challenge. HOW TO DO IT: Lie faceup on an incline bench with your hips lower than your head, your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Grab the bar behind your head for support or grasp the sides of the bench. Lift your knees toward your chest. Slowly lower your feet toward the floor and repeat.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Popularized by CrossFit, this exercise, like the banana roll, will make you feel silly twice -- first for how you look and second when you realize how much you underestimated its challenge. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with arms extended overhead, legs straight out. Lift into a "hollow" position, with arms and legs up, lower back pressed into the ground and head in line with the arms. Using your core to get going, rock your body so that you look like the bottom of a rocking chair.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Lots of people crank out leg raises, but they're not getting the full benefit. By concentrating on keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor, you'll add difficulty to this move and reap greater benefits. HOW TO DO IT: Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your torso perpendicular to the ground and don't lean back as you pull your knees toward your chest by bending your hips. To make it more difficult, keep your legs straight as you raise them and work toward raising your straight legs all the way up to the bar.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Your glutes -- and hips and back -- are all part of your core. This move works all of those muscle groups much as they function together in real life, while still ripping that six-pack area you can't stop obsessing over. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your arms at your sides, palms down. Bend your knees so your heels are on the floor, feet flexed. Squeeze your glutes so your body forms a straight line from knees to shoulders. Maintaining this straight line and keeping your hips square, lift your right foot off the ground and bring your knee to your chest. Return it to the floor and lift ...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Planks too easy? Try them suspended upside down. The front lever isn't just incredibly impressive-looking, it's even harder than it looks and will challenge your core, back and motivation as you train to perfect it. Good luck! HOW TO DO IT: Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. From the hanging position, use your shoulders, back and core to pull your body -- totally straight -- from the perpendicular position up to a position parallel to the floor. If you can reach this position, hold it for as long as you can. To work your way up to this position, start with your knees tu...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Mimicking a dog marking his territory might not sound like an efficient ab exercise, but this move will prove otherwise. You'll also work on your hips, which are (surprise!) part of your core. HOW TO DO IT: Start on all fours, knees below your hips, hands below your shoulders. Keep your knee bent and lift your left leg out to the side until your thigh is parallel to the floor -- you'll look like a dog visiting a fire hydrant. Kick your leg straight back and return to start. Repeat with the right leg.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​If this move is tough enough for the Italian Stallion, it's tough enough for you. While you may not rock the dragon on a farmhouse wooden table with a fire burning in the background while you train to avenge the death of your friend and formal rival, you can pretend that's why you're working on this punishing move. HOW TO DO IT: Lie faceup on a bench and grab the bench next to your ears so that your elbows are bent and your upper arms are next to your head. Your hands are there simply for support -- don't pull with them or you'll wrench your neck. Use your core to roll up onto your shoulders ...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​Keeping your hips stable and body aligned gets a whole lot tougher when the ground can roll. Throw in a ball and you add even more instability -- that's the idea behind many of the moves on this list, including this one. HOW TO DO IT: Start in push-up position, but with your shins on a Swiss ball. Your body should form a straight line from ankles to head. Without rounding your lower back, lift your left leg off the ball and bring that knee toward your right elbow. Return to start, then bring your right knee up to your left elbow.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​To get the form right on this move, imagine you're the Karate Kid: When he punches his right arm, he rows his left toward his waist. HOW TO DO IT: Stand in the center of a cable-cross setup, with the cables set just above waist height. Face one side of the cables, with your left leg in front of your right. Grab the cable in front of you with your left hand and grab the one behind you with your right and stand as if you've just thrown a punch with your left. Your right hand should be by your right hip, your left arm extended. Now push and pull simultaneously -- pull your left arm toward your l...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

Holding a plank -- especially on your forearms -- is probably a piece of cake by now. Instead of hanging out statically for five minutes, change the length of the lever to challenge your core. HOW TO DO IT: Assume a forearm-plank position on a slick floor with a towel or slides under your toes. Slide your body forward and back slightly by hinging at your elbows and shoulders, maintaining a rigid body line from head to heels throughout the move.​
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Hardest Abs Exercises

No list of advanced core moves would be complete without an example from the "300" workout. This variation on the classic supine move involves a challenge: holding a loaded barbell straight in front of your chest throughout the move. HOW TO DO IT: Grab a barbell loaded with one 45-pound plate on each side. Get on your back and hold the bar directly over your chest with straight arms. Keep your feet together and legs straight as you bring both feet up to the left plate then return them to the floor. Next, bring your legs up to the right plate and return them to the floor.
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Hardest Abs Exercises

​While this exercise doesn't target your abs, per se, it does target other core muscles like the glutes and hips. This move -- a favorite of Bret Contreras, CSCS, aka "The Glute Guy" -- is one of the best exercises for challenging and strengthening your backside. HOW TO DO IT: Start seated on the ground with a bench behind you and a loaded barbell over your hips. Your upper back and shoulders should be on the bench. Drive through your feet and extend your hips by contracting your glutes, raising the bar until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Return to the starting posit...
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Hardest Abs Exercises

Don't let this one fool you: It may look and sound a little silly, but it's hard work. And it's foundational stuff: Rolling over is a skill that babies have, but many adults have lost. Get it back with this roll. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with arms extended overhead, legs straight out. Lift into a "hollow" position -- arms and legs lifted, lower back pressed into the ground, head in line with the arms. Engage your core and roll to your left using your abdominal muscles, not your hips. Roll until you're on your stomach and are in a Superman "flying" position. Roll back the way you came. No...
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Understanding the potential benefits of a personal trainer can help you decide if the financial investment is worthwhile.

​MotivationMotivation is often difficult to maintain when you exercise on your own. Regular sessions with a personal trainer enhance your motivation to continue with a workout regimen. Even if you don't use a personal trainer for every session, knowing that you'll meet with your trainer soon will motivate you during workouts. You also get the satisfaction of showing your trainer the improvement you've made as your exercise program proceeds.
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Understanding the potential benefits of a personal trainer can help you decide if the financial investment is worthwhile.

InstructionA professional trainer teaches you the proper way to perform each exercise movement in your routine. They often demonstrates the movement and watches you perform it so they can correct any issues with your posture or technique. Learning how to perform exercises properly reduces your risk of injury. You also will be able to do the exercises on your own at home or at the gym after getting professional fitness instruction.
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