3 Moves For Flat Abs (You're Probably Not Doing) + Loving Your Body (Like NOW)

Written By


Expert Reviewed By

Dr. Lauryn Lax, OTD, MS

Dr. Lauryn, OTD, MS is a doctor of occupational therapy, clinical nutritionists and functional medicine expert with 25 years of clinical and personal experience in healing from complex chronic health issues and helping others do the same.



I’ve shared the statistic before: 97% of women have an “I hate my body moment” EVERYDAY—this from Glamour Magazine’s exclusive survey of over 300 women several years ago.


But a couple statistics not often shared:


  • On average, women have 13 negative body thoughts daily—nearly one for every waking hour.
  • And a disturbing number of women, from the survey, actually confessed to having 35, 50 or even 100 hateful thoughts about their own shapes each day.



Moreover, researchers discovered that for many women, our bodies may NOT actually be the problem:


“When Glamour analyzed the data to look for a cause of these ruthless thoughts, a fascinating trend emerged: Respondents who were unsatisfied with their career or relationship tended to report more negative body thoughts than women who were content in those areas.”


Can you relate?


(Bueller? Bueller?)


How many “I hate my body” moments or thoughts have you had…today?


“Ugh. (one look at myself in the mirror). Good morning…Not Gorgeous.”


Strike one.



“Oy vey, these jeans didn’t fit like this last week.”


Strike two.


“Look at the nose.”


Strike three.


“You could use a little extra shoulder muscle.”


Strike four.


And on and on—all within…one morning’s time.


No matter what your inner critic says to you, chances are, you’ve developed a way of speaking to yourself that sounds oddly like your own voice—even though it’s not.


That inner critic of ours has a way of making us think these ‘I hate my body moments’ come from within—but rather, they are thoughts we’ve trained and ingrained in our heads to believe now for some time.


And, if you’re like most women, chances are, you have a ‘trouble spot’ or two—you know that body part or two that you are acutely aware of—believing everyone else in the free world is just as conscious as you are about it.



“I hate my thighs.”


“I seem to carry all my weight in my lower body.”


“How do I get rid of this underarm flab?”


“I hate my hair.”


“I break out all the time.”


“I want a flatter stomach.”


“How do I get a 6-pack?”


These latter statements are ones I hear far too often.


In fact, the number one body part that women dislike is their stomach or midsection.


Spanning across ALL races, ages, and ethnicities, 65% of women agree that the stomach is their “worst body part”. Second place goes to thighs/legs, followed by the butt and then skin.



At one time, I hated my body so much that every morning, at the strike of 4:30 a.m., my alarm clock would go off and I’d immediately drop to the floor and make myself complete a series of 300-abs exercises before I could do anything else—pee, drink water, brush my teeth, do my makeup or eat anything.


All in the name of flat abs!


The striving left me completely and utterly drained though.


‘Never good enough’—it didn’t take me long to realize that there would always be something I was not 100% happy with on my body.


So what to do about it?


Of course you’ve heard all about “loving the skin you’re in”—but sometimes it seems so cliché to say to yourself.


“I know I am beautiful, but…”


“I know I should love my body as it is…but…”


“I’m fine as I am but, but I’d be happier when…”


Listen up!


You CAN have your cake an eat it too—feel amazing in your own skin, actually like your body, develop some muscle tone and not be so focused on your body at the same time.



How to do it?


Approach those ‘flat abs’ with a more holistic perspective.


In fact, I’ve got a secret for you…


Despite what Self Magazine, or Cosmo, tells you, you CAN’T spot train a body part at all (and why are you taking all your advice from a glossy magazine in the first place?).



  • 200 crunches
  • 100 lunges
  • 300 squats
  • 5 rounds of bicycle crunches, situps and leg lifts
  • tricep extensions, dips and presses for that ‘wiggly skin’


No matter how many reps of an exercise you do, spent ‘targeting’ a specific body part, spot-training only leaves you with one result: Frustrated.


In fact, the whole myth of “more reps tone your muscles” and “less reps grow more muscle” is a little off.


To set the record straight:

  • You can gain muscle mass
  • You can lose muscle mass
  • You can gain fat
  • You can lose fat,
  • BUT you CAN’T tone a muscle to make it “look pretty.”


If you perform a high rep exercise, you are simply training in more of an endurance state—and that does not ‘tone’ (Note: Take a lesson from our chronic cardio-friends—i.e. those people who run and run and run, only to end up with stringy muscles and run-down bodies, or never lose that stubborn body fat—then you will realize ‘tone’ is not won from beating an exercise or muscle to death).


In addition, if you think ‘target’ exercises are the trick to getting a six-pack (i.e. variations of crunches, spot training the lower abs and the upper abs, etc.), you are MISSING OUT on your overall core development. And moreover, you’re just putting yourself at risk for overtraining or overworking everything else on your body: your hip flexors, abductors, and adductors.


In fact, guess what…you don’t even need to do crunches at ALL!


If you really want to build a stronger, more ‘defined’ core (and potentially some kind of ‘pack’), instead of crunching ‘til the cows come home, try these unconventional exercise you’re probably not doing:


Hollow body hold.



Or, as I like to initially cue people: The ‘boat position’ or V-up position.


The standard position is as follows:



  • Lie down flat on back and push belly button down towards the floor, your lower back should be touching the ground


  • Keep your abs and butt tight at all times, and with your arms pointed straight overhead and legs straight with toes pointed


  • Start slowly raising your legs and shoulders off the ground


  • Your head should come off the ground along with your shoulders, with your ears are glued between your shoulders


  • Stay tight with your abs and butt and find the lowest position you can have your arms and legs without them touching the ground AND without breaking your lower back (where it begins to arch off the ground)


  • To develop your hollow, you can start with your arms and legs higher (1-2 feet high off the ground) and slowly build up strength until they can be held lower (just inches off the ground) without breaking the position


Anatomically speaking, your core maintains a strong static contraction, your hips are in posterior pelvic tilt (hips engaged and slightly shifted forward, butt tight) and your spine is in lumbar flexion.



Why is it called the hollow body position?


Well, because the belly is sucked in, as if there’s nothing there, so it looks hollow.


In addition to enhancing your ‘game’ and form for various movements, the hollow hold exercise just so happens to be one of the toughest “ab” exercises around.


(And ‘tough’= better results, right?)


Try incorporating this baby into your fitness routine in a variety of ways:


From Tabata hollow body holds (20 seconds of hold, 10 seconds rest x 8 rounds total), to 30-second to 3-minute static holds supersetted with back extensions, to going 3-minutes straight (triple dog dare you!).


In addition, a few extra exercises you can incorporate to build your core stability and ability to maintain a hollow hold include:


N-ups – Start flat on your back. Bring your arms in and shoulders forward while simultaneously bringing your legs up and in so that the top position is a tuck balanced on your butt.


V-ups – Begin like N-ups. Bring your arms and shoulders up while lifting your legs keeping them straight to finish in a V position.


Hollow Rocks – Lie on your back in a hollow position with your arms by your ears. Rock back and forth. Your lower back should be curved so that the rocking motion is smooth.


Hollow Rock Sit-up. Hold a medicine ball between your feet. Lie on your back with your arms glued to your ears. Keepy your toes pointed and sit-up to about 75-degrees. Then lie back down.


Hollow Rock Tossing – This exercise requires 3 medicine balls. You and a partner each hold a medicine ball between your feet. Lie on your backs with your feet facing each other about. (distance depends on how far you can throw the ball) Take the third ball and throw it to your partner. As you catch the ball rock back in a tight hollow then rock forward and throw the ball.


Hollow Rock to Arch Rock – Start in a hollow, do three hollow rocks, then roll onto your stomach without touching the ground with either your hands or your feet. Then perform three arch rocks and roll in the same direction back onto your back. Traverse the floor repeating this pattern, then be sure to go back the other way as the roll is not symmetric.


Note: People do the hollow body exercises wrong all the time. Be aware of a few common errors:


  • They bring the legs too low and the lower back is slightly off the ground.


  • Or they stick their legs up towards the sky, too high, and have completely missed the mark.


  • Or they bring their hands out in front of them, instead of glued to their ears.


  • If your lower back is off the ground, feet are past about 45 or 50-degrees , or your hands are stretched out in front of you…YOU ARE NOT IN A HOLLOW HOLD.


The take-home main points for a perfect Hollow Position (Back on the floor)

  • No Space between lumbar spine and floor
  • Your scapulas (shoulder blades) are elevated off the ground
  • Hips are extended with a posterior pelvic tilt
  • Knees and elbows are locked out and glued in place
  • Arms are by the ears with active shoulders (shrug shoulders toward ears)
  • Ankles plantar flexed with pointed toes


2. Planks.



Everyone’s favorite! And yet another great overall core engager like the hollow body!


Here’s the basic prescription:


Place the forearms on the ground with the elbows aligned below the shoulders, and arms parallel to the body at about shoulder-width distance. If flat palms bother your wrists, clasp your hands together. (Note: Any of the following plank variations can be performed with straight arms or in a forearm position.)


A goal to aim for?


Approximately two-minutes in the position.


Holding the plank exercise for that long indicates that you have a reasonably strong core.


A recent study of 168 college students found that an average college-aged female has a plank time of about 1 minute, 30 seconds, while an average college-aged male has a plank time of about 1 minute, 46 seconds.


If you consider the average college-aged student probably is not the fittest or strongest (i.e. beer fests and late night Taco Bell runs don’t always pave the way to health), 2-minutes seems just about right for those of you who are over the beer pong days.


The best part of the plank?




You don’t just have to stick to the standard static plank.


In fact, if you can easily hold a plank for 30-60 seconds, it’s time to mix it up!


Again, you can try tabata planks (similar to your tabata style hollow holds above); 1-leg, 1-arm planks; side planks; or, if you’re really up for a challenge, try adding a 10-25 lbs. plate to your back if you find you can hold a static plank for days!


These will give you a whole new experience (and perhaps even help you work towards the world record of 5 hours and 15 minutes set by Former Marine officer and retired Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agent George Hood, 57 this past May.


Note: Ensure proper body mechanics:


  • Hips up (not sagging)
  • Pretend you have a steel rod or broomstick in your back (straight as a plank!)
  • Elbows or hands directly underneath your shoulders
  • Breathing


3. Deadlifts & Squats


Wait…these are not an ab builders?


You bet your bottom dollar they are!


If you’ve ever performed a proper deadlift or squat, you know, without a doubt, core engagement is what these moves are all about—contracting your abdominals ensures you maintain a nice flat back, upright chest (squat) and proper control over your bar.


It all comes down to MIDLINE STABILITY.


Two of the absolute best exercises for your abs are the squat and the deadlift. Both are compound movements (meaning they work multiple muscle groups simultaneously), and both work the core in it’s entirety—we are talking obliques, upper abs, lower abs, transverse abdominis (inner abs responsible for sucking everything in tight)


In addition, the core has to work double time during the squat to prevent injury and maintain upright posture because your abdominals (and back extensors) are loaded top to bottom.


Essentially, as soon as you lift that barbell from the rack or off the floor, your core in it’s entirety is working at full capacity.


If you’ve never squatted with a barbell, or picked a barbell up off the floor with weights, there’s no time like the present.


A few points of performance:



  • Feet directly under hips and toes may be pointed out slightly.
  • Bar should be over your mid-foot; Your shins should be touching the bar; Shoulders will be slightly over the bar, when you bend down
  • Hand grip outside your hips.
  • Arms stay straight throughout the lift.
  • Chest should be up-not hunched over bar.
  • STRONG core.
  • Back remains flat and tight and in good lumbar and thoracic extension (the natural curvature of your spine).
  • Keep the bar close to your body as you pull—like you’re shaving your legs!
  • Your torso angle should remain constant until the bar reaches your knees. This means that your shoulders and hips rise at the same rate until the bar is at your knees. If your hips come up first or your chest comes up first, you violate this rule.
  • The bar should travel in a perfectly vertical path perpendicular from the ground to the top of your pull.


Back Squat (with barbell):

  • Shoulder width stance
  • Toes turned out 30 degrees
  • Place bar across lower traps
  • Squat down – pull hips down and back (Drop it like it’s hot girl)
  • Aim to hit the ‘bottom’ position (breaking below parallel if mobility allows, with the hip crease below the knees)
  • Drive knees out
  • Maintain upright chest & lumbar curve
  • Maintain heels on ground (don’t let them come up)
  • Drive hips back up by engaging your BUTT as you stand
  • Push off heels


For a visual demo, check out this video library for squats, deadlifts and more. 


Incorporate ‘big lifts’ (squats, deadlifts, pushes, presses, pulls) at least 2-3 days per week—and you’ll really never have to do another crunch again. And above all, remember 80% of any results you want to see in the gym are found…outside the gym (in the kitchen and your lifestyle)


  • Drink half your bodyweight in ounces of water (at least);
  • Eat protein, fats and veggies as the basis of your main meals;
  • Avoid sugar, conventional dairy and refined grains;
  • Take a probiotic/eat probiotics;
  • Get your sleep;
  • And de-stress your life (as much as possible)


Unsure how? I love nothing more than teaching other women how to lift—and feel confident navigating the gym, while also elevating their life through lifestyle and nutrition. Let’s connect to find a THRIVE Life Plan that works for you.


Lastly, take some inspiration from some ladies who spoke out on how they do LOVE their bodies…now:


“I love that it is strong and keeps moving and it has put up with a lot of BS that I have put it through in the past. It has forgiven me for the abuse I put it through so I forgive it for not being taller and leaner. smile emoticon.”-Mary Kay M.


“I love my body because it grows my babies!! How could I not love it when it blesses me so big?!”- Abby H.


“I love my body by taking care of my body: eating right, getting enough sleep, taking long, hot showers and Epsom salt baths, exercising and stretching/yoga. What I love about my body is that when I take care of it, it takes care of me!”-Jamie S.


“I love my body by shopping. It feels good to dress up, making sure I buy things that are going to accentuate the good parts and cover up the not so good ones. I love everything about my body. I understand. I know what to do to make it happy and the consequences when I do the wrong things with it.”-Tania T.


” I love that even though I need a lot of work..and work outs..I am satisfied with my body and love more than anything the heart, mind and soul that is contained within it!! That is what I will be remembered for!! No one talks about Aunt Birtha’s dress size…but they all talk about her effect on future generations!!”-Andrea G.


“I love my body by taking care of it and feeding it wholesome foods.”-Cindy R.


“What I love about my body? Two answers. One, my legs. Long, lean, strong, and I’ve never had to think about cellulite, ever. Two, it hasn’t given over the the MS yet. I still get to play, think, work, and communicate at full capacity. That is a blessing each day I haven’t fallen down a notch to MS.”-Georgia N.



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Weekly Workouts

And without further ado…some fun HIIT style workouts to incorporate into your week! Choose 3-5 or 6 days worth to spice things up and take the thought out of the gym!




Cal row (or burpees)





7-minute AMRAP

7 Goblet Squats

14 Medicine Ball Slams (or wood chops with dumbbell)

21/21 Mountain Climbers


7-minute AMRAP

7 Burpees

14 Kettlebell swings

21 Sit-ups


7-minute AMRAP

7 Broad Jumps

14 Pushups

21 Lunges (weighted)










5 rounds:

400-meter run

15 Pullups/rows

15 Strict press




15-minute AMRAP

5 Hang Squat Clean Thrusters

10 Box Jumps

15 V-ups/Toes to Bar




5 Rounds, 90-second rest between each round:


50 Double Unders (100 Single Unders or 50 Jumping Jacks)

30 Kettlebell Swings

10 Burpees



500-meter row/run sprint




12-minute AMRAP

10 Backsquats

10 Hand release Pushups

10 Strict pull-ups/ring rows/barbell rows




500-meter row/run sprint




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