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The Secret Exercise Trick for Flatter Abs After 40

If you want a trimmed-down midsection, you need to ditch the crunches for these functional core moves.

Getting a flat stomach is hard at any age. But, yes, it's harder to do after 40, when the grim reality of a declining muscle mass and a less powerful metabolism start to set in. Throw in a busy job, maybe a family, and so many other factors and responsibilities that make your days after 40 way different than your days in your 20s or 30s, and it's all too easy to let your exercise goals fall by the wayside. That being said, there still are plenty of things you can do to trim the fat around the middle and achieve the flat abs you've always wanted.

Now, if you want a flat stomach in your 40s, there's no getting around eating better and exercising, I'm afraid. However, in the case of the latter, there are some next-level shortcuts—and one particular method of core training—that I strongly recommend for anyone over 40 who wants to give his or her flat-belly efforts a much-needed boost. (To be clear: I'm talking about getting a flat, toned stomach here—not a wildly shredded midsection.)

As we age, we lose muscle, power, strength, and stability. When it comes to the muscle groups in and around your core, most conventional fitness advice—and your gut instinct, if you like exercising—will tell you to focus on moves like crunches, side bends, and sit ups to rectify this. I personally have nothing against those exercises, but I think you can do better.

Think of what your core actually does: It's the sturdy and flexible trunk of your body, the all-important middle machinery that keeps your body stable, helps you turn and swivel and move effectively in the three-dimensional world, and transfers force while supporting the spine. If you want a flatter, more toned stomach, you need to emphasize exercises that help those actions and work your core in its totality from multiple angles. After all, if you're banging out crunches all the time, you'll build bigger, bulkier abdominal muscles, but it's not as helpful if you're trying to flatten your belly.

So here's what you do: Eat the right diet (see here for more on that), be sure to get in plenty of brisk walks or other forms of cardio every day, and weave the following core exercises into your routine. I recommend doing one or two of them at the beginning of your workouts—alternating exercises on different days of the week—and always performing 3-4 sets each time you do them. Read on for my instructions, and for more reasons to stay fit after 40, don't miss The One Exercise That's Best for Beating Back Alzheimer's, Says Doctor.

Landmine Rotations (8-10 reps each side)

Landmine Rotations

Start the movement by putting a barbell inside a landmine attachment. (If you don't have one, just place it on the end of a sturdy surface.) Grip the end of the barbell with both hands and hold it out in front of you with your feet shoulder width apart.

Keeping your core tight, rotate the bar towards one side of your body, while pivoting both feet towards that direction. Leading your hips and shoulders, rotate the bar to the opposite side, maintaining tension in your core. And for more great workout advice, see why Science Says This Is the Single Best Abs Exercise You Can Do.

Half Kneeling Band Pallof Press (8 reps each side)

2 half kneeling band pallof press

Wrap a resistance band around a sturdy beam or pole and pull it out in front of you. Grip the band and get into a half-kneeling position, with your arms to your chest. The band should be opposite of the knee that is in front of you.

Brace your core, and begin pressing the band out in front of you, exhaling when you finish. Inhale and pull the band back before performing another rep. Finish all reps on one side before switching to the other.

Hanging Knee Raise (10-15 reps)

3 hanging knee raise

Position yourself by hanging on a pullup bar. Tuck your pelvis and—without swinging—drive your knees towards your chest. Flex your lower abs at the top of the movement, then lower back to starting position before performing another rep. And for more great exercise advice, see here for the Secret Exercise Tricks for Keeping Your Weight Down for Good.

Suitcase Carry (50-100 feet each side)

4 suitcase carry

Place a heavy dumbbell to your side. Keep your chest tall and core tight and pick it up with one arm while maintaining a neutral spine. Brace your abs hard, and begin walking under control while trying to maintain a neutral spine while the weight is pulling you down to the side. Walk the prescribed distance, then switch hands on the way back.

Dead Bug

5 dead bug
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Start by laying on your back with your hands towards the ceiling and your knees up. Fill your belly full of air and pull your ribs down so that your lower back presses into the floor. Begin by taking one of your arms and the opposite leg and extend it all the way just above the floor.

Once you've reached that point, exhale all of your air, keeping tension in your core. The bring the arm/leg back and repeat with the opposite side. And for more great exercises to try, see here to learn about the 3 Workouts Proven to Change Your Body Shape.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim