It’s summer – the time of year when almost everyone wants six-pack abs. But if you’re a beginner at exercise – especially if you’re overweight – the worst thing you can do to lose belly fat is hit the floor and do hundreds of crunches and sit-ups. The "spinal flexion" of these exercises can cause disc herniations. A much safer way for beginners to do abdominal training is with the following three less well-known exercises:

Six-Pack Abs Exercise #1: Plank

To do the Plank, lie on your stomach. Supporting your bodyweight on your forearms and toes, raise your body up in a straight line. You should be hovering a few inches above your exercise mat. Keep your back straight and your hips up. Hold your abs tight (as though you were bracing for a punch to the stomach), but breathe normally. Hold this position for 20 seconds, then gently rest on your knees. Try to hold the Plank a little longer with each workout.

Six-Pack Abs Exercise #2: Side Plank

To do the Side Plank, lie on your right side. Bend your right arm at the elbow and stack your left foot on top of your right foot. Supporting your bodyweight on your right forearm and your right foot, raise your body in a straight line. Your butt and thighs should hover a few inches above your mat. Keep your back straight and your hips up. Hold your abs tight, but breathe normally. Hold this position for 10 seconds, then repeat the exercise on your left side. Try to hold it a little longer with each workout.

Six-Pack Abs Exercise #3: Bird Dog

To do the Bird Dog, kneel on your mat and place your hands on the mat under your shoulders. Brace your abs. Raise your right hand and left leg simultaneously while keeping your abs braced. Point your right arm straight out from your shoulder and your left leg straight out from your hip. Your pelvis should not rotate. (If someone placed a ball in the small of your back, it shouldn’t fall off.) Your back should be flat like a table, and you’ll look like a bird dog pointing. Hold for 3 to 5 seconds, and then slowly lower yourself without rotating your pelvis. Do 5 reps, then repeat with your left side.

Do not rest between each of the above three exercises, but rest one minute before repeating this mini-circuit once or twice more. You can do this every day if you wish – in the comfort of your own home.

[Ed. Note: If you think sit-ups and crunches are the best way to get a flat stomach, you’ve fallen victim to one of the most common fitness myths around. Discover 5 more myths about exercise – and how to combat them – right here.

And for a free source of fitness ideas, nutrition tips, and motivation, sign up for ETR’s natural health newsletter.]

Craig Ballantyne

Craig Ballantyne is the author of The Perfect Day Formula: How to Own the Day and Control Your Life. Craig has been a contributor to Men's Health magazine for over 17 years. Today he teaches his gift to high-performing entrepreneurs how to squeeze more out of their days, increase their income, and make more quality time for their families in his Perfect Life Workshop and Work-Life Mastery programs. Craig used his own advice to overcome crippling anxiety attacks in 2006, and he'll teach you his 5 Pillars of Success so you can increase your income, decrease your work time, and live the life of your dreams. Learn more about Craig at

Share This