Illustrated by Zhang Quingyun
Even though the sit-up is a tried-and-true standard, it never hurts to mix it up. Luckily, you can use basic gym equipment — like dumbbells, a Swiss ball, and a medicine ball — to reinvent your regular routine. And, our friends at Women's Health are offering up top trainers' favorite exercises that use these tools to firm and strengthen abdominal muscles.
Challenging your balance is an easy way to engage the muscles of your core. Take a purposeful walk carrying a dumbbell in only one hand, and you'll see what we mean. You might be tempted to lean into the side that's carrying the dumbbell, but don't! Instead, fight the imbalance by using your ab muscles to stabilize the body and remain upright.
Another great way to avoid monotony in your ab routine is to focus on compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups. For example, the overhead-dumbbell reverse-lunge exercise doesn't look like a typical ab move, but it builds core strength while also engaging the muscles of your legs and butt. It's effective and multi-tasking.
Click through for photos on how to perform all six expert-recommended exercises. Women's Health