Like most of us, I become an avid fan of competitive swimming every four years during the Summer Olympics. The eye candy factor is exceptionally high and the races are short and fast, so they're much more exciting than watching, say, soccer.
In 2008, I really loved watching Dara Torres. She was 41 at the time and the mom of a baby girl. After dedicating years to an Olympic comeback (she'd medaled in four previous Games) she smoked her competitors, some of whom who were toddlers when she began her swimming career. She won three silver medals and is the oldest person to medal in the Olympics, ever. All that success in middle age wasn't an accident; she works out hard for several hours a day and her body shows it. As a fellow member of the 40-and-up club this year, she's my fitness idol. And she shared her ab workout with Shape magazine recently. Here's the routine:
Bosu Figure Eight: Stand on the round side of a Bosu or on a balance disc while holding a medicine ball over your right shoulder with your elbows bent. Lift one leg behind you and move the ball in a horizontal figure eight pattern for eight reps, then switch legs.
Slow Ball Rollout: Center your forearms on a stability ball, with your hands clasped and elbows under shoulders. Step your legs out straight behind you, and keeping your torso and legs still, roll the ball out as far as you can while still keeping control. Do 5 to 10 reps.
Corkscrew: Get into plank position with your hands on the ground and ankles in the center of the stability ball. Bend your right leg and swing it underneath your body, then back out to your left, and repeat for 5 to 10 quick reps.
All Angles Rollout: Get into the same position as the slow ball rollout, except this time roll the ball quickly five times forward and back, then on five times on the left diagonal and five times on the right diagonal, and then roll the ball out to the left and right five times quickly.
Seated Stability Ball Rotation: Sit on a bench and hug a stability ball toward you, then while keeping the lower body still, rotate from side to side for 10 to 15 twists.
Side Bridge Cable Row: Loop an exercise band around a sturdy object to keep it in place. Balance on your feet and right forearm in side plank position. Hold handle in your hand and slowly pull your left arm to your side. Repeat eight times per side.
Bosu Push-Up: Get into push-up position with your hands on the flat side of a Bosu. At the top of the push-up, draw one knee and then the other toward your chest. Repeat 10 times.
Seated Medicine Ball Rotation: Same as the stability ball rotation, except you're holding a medicine ball about chest height. Do 10 to 15 reps, quickly.
Bosu Superman Side Kick: You can make this easier by standing on the ground, or harder by standing on a balance disk or Bosu. Stand with your arms out in front of you, palms facing in the classic Superman flying pose. Bend forward at the hips and stretch your left leg out in behind you. Return to original position while kicking leg out to the side. Repeat 5 to 10 times.
While the headline is "get a flat stomach fast," fast does not equal easy, here. These workouts are tough and require a lot of equipment, although most of it can be found at any decent gym. If you're new to exercise or wanting to tone up your abs after giving birth, you might want to start with something a little gentler and work up.
You can't argue with success, though, and given Dara Torres' extreme buff-ness and incredible ab definition even after having a baby, I'll do pretty much whatever she says to do. I doubt I'll ever have abs you can bounce a quarter off of like her, but this workout looks like just the thing to get rid of the "mom flap" so many of us lug around after pregnancy. You might not look like her, but you will look better in your own swimsuit!
What's your favorite ab exercise?
Image via Gurms/Flickr