Progressions to Belly Toning 101

Let’s get to work! Last month I reviewed a handful of exercises to strengthen the belly. This month, I’m going to discuss ways to progress each of those exercises. Once you feel you have truly mastered the basics, try them with an added twist:

1. BASIC: Straight-arm plank (1 minute minimum)

PROGRESSION: 3-point plank: first try pointing one foot so it lifts off the floor one inch, then take turns lifting each limb one at a time while you remain motionless with the rest of your body (15 seconds each). If you’re feeling like a rock star, further progress the exercise into a two-point plank by lifting one foot and the opposite hand (30 seconds each).

2. BASIC: Resisting a friend’s force (or a pulley at 5-10 lbs resistance if you can’t convince a friend to participate). Start by kneeling on both knees, arms out straight in front of your chest and clasped together. Maintain good posture and remain motionless as your partner pushes your arms left and right.

PROGRESSION: Instead of kneeling, stand on one leg.

3. BASIC: Side plank from one forearm. (30 second minimum)

PROGRESSION: Starting from the same position, drop your hips to the floor then raise them back up toward the sky. Once your hips are as high as you can lift them, rotate your top shoulder toward the floor so your top arm crosses under your bottom armpit. Then rotate back to your starting position. Repeat 10 times.

4. BASIC: Lay on your back with your arms straight up toward the sky and your feet off the floor with your knees bent 90 degrees. (Hold motionless 45 seconds minimum)

PROGRESSION: Extend one leg out straight about an inch off the floor and extend the opposite arm overhead with an equal distance off the floor. Maintain a perfect 90-degree bend in the opposite leg and keep the other arm straight up toward the sky. (Hold motionless (30-60 seconds) then switch sides.

5. BASIC: Superman hold. Lay face down with legs straight and arms also straight out above your head. Lift arms and legs, head, shoulders, and chest off the floor and hold for (15 second minimum)

PROGRESSION: Start to “swim” with your arms and legs. While they are lifted off the floor, further lift one arm and the opposite leg an inch higher. While you lower them back down an inch (but still above the floor) lift the other sides. Start to pick up the pace so you switch sides every second for 15 seconds.

Does everyone have these drills memorized? Remember: Stabilization is the key to a stronger belly, and eating right is the key to a physically more appealing one. Work on both and you will end up with the best results.

(Fitness instructor Kiley Schoenfelder was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 8. She operates her own independent fitness company, K FIT NYC. Kiley holds two certificates from the National Academy of Sports Medicine: Corrective Exercise Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer. Her website is located at 



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