Tone Up Your Muffin Top

Love handles, muffin top—call it whatever you want, but we all hate that extra stuff that hangs over the elastic on our tights, right? While the best thing you can do to slim your sides is to adjust your diet (more veggies, fewer brownies!) and add cardiovascular activity to your weekly workouts, there are also some toning techniques that will make those tights more comfortable.

Daphnie Yang, a dance instructor and personal trainer in NYC, created this series of exercises exclusively for Dance Spirit. “Many people make the mistake of just doing loads of crunches, but crunches only work the front wall of the stomach,” Yang says. “The core’s transverse and oblique muscles get ignored. This workout targets every muscle group that comprises the core—transverse, internal and external obliques and the rectus abdominis—leading to a strong center and svelte waistline.” Read on and shape up!

Exercise 1: Reverse Crunch
Exercise 1: Reverse Crunch
Exercise 1: Reverse Crunch
Exercise 2: Bicycle Twist
Exercise 2: Bicycle Twist
Exercise 2: Bicycle Twist
Exercise 3: V-Sits
Exercise 3: V-Sits
Exercise 3: V-Sits
Exercise 4: Side Plank Crunch
Exercise 4: Side Plank Crunch
Exercise 4: Side Plank Crunch
Exercise 5: Plank
Exercise 6: Superman
Exercise 6: Superman
Exercise 6: Superman

Exercise 1: Reverse Crunch

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Where you’ll feel the burn: the rectus abdominis, which is the front wall of your stomach.

Start by lying on your back, with your legs lifted, slightly bent and crossed at the ankles. Place your arms by your sides with the palms facing down, and rest your head on the floor.

Exercise 1: Reverse Crunch

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Using your abdominal muscles, lift your hips up from the floor, bringing your knees in toward your chest, and then lift your hips and legs straight up in the air.

TIP: Don’t use momentum to swing your legs up in the air. Use your core strength to control the movement.

Exercise 1: Reverse Crunch

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Slowly roll down to the starting position, one vertebra at a time.

Repeat the exercise 20 times.

Exercise 2: Bicycle Twist

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Where you’ll feel the burn: the rectus abdominis and the internal and external oblique muscles, which are the muscles that form the waistline.

Lie on your back with your head, neck and shoulders lifted, one leg extended and the other leg pulled in toward your chest. Place your hands behind your head.

Exercise 2: Bicycle Twist

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Twist your left shoulder toward your right knee.

Tip: Try not to tug on the back of your neck. Place your thumbs behind your ears to help you resist the urge.

Exercise 2: Bicycle Twist

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Repeat on the other side.

Complete the sequence 30 times (15 on each side).

Exercise 3: V-Sits

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Where you’ll feel the burn: the rectus abdominis.

Lie flat on the ground with your legs straight, arms extended overhead and abdominals engaged.

Exercise 3: V-Sits

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Inhale as you draw your belly button in toward your spine, and then exhale as you lift your upper body and legs simultaneously, with your arms reaching forward, so your body forms the letter V. Hold the top position for one full second.

Tip: Keep your chest up and shoulders down and relaxed.

Exercise 3: V-Sits

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Roll down one vertebra at a time in a controlled manner.

Repeat 12 times.

Exercise 4: Side Plank Crunch

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Where you’ll feel the burn: the internal and external obliques.

Begin in side plank position, resting your upper body on your right forearm, with your right shoulder directly in line with your right elbow, your legs extended and your feet flexed. Place your left arm behind your head. Make sure your body forms a straight line from your shoulders through your hips and ankles.

Exercise 4: Side Plank Crunch

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Inhale, and then exhale as you reach your left elbow down toward your right hand, keeping the rest of your body aligned and tight. Inhale as you return to starting position.

Tip: Don't let your top hip droop.

Exercise 4: Side Plank Crunch

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Do 12 reps on each side.

Exercise 5: Plank

Where you’ll feel the burn: the transverse muscles, which are the muscles that wrap around your spine like a weight belt.

Position your elbows directly underneath your shoulders, with your forearms flat on the floor and your palms facing down. Extend your legs behind you. Start by holding for 20 seconds, eventually working your way up to 60 seconds. Your belly button should be drawn in toward your spine the entire time—don’t let your hips or butt raise.

TIP: Inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth for the duration of this exercise.

Exercise 6: Superman

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Where you’ll feel the burn: the lower back.

Lie face-down with your legs extended and toes pointed. Bend your arms and place your hands behind your head. Inhale.

Exercise 6: Superman

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As you exhale, lift your upper body and legs off the ground, keeping your shoulders down, back relaxed and chest lifted.

TIP: Keep your abs engaged the entire time, even when you’re lying in the starting position. Don’t let your abs release into the ground.

Exercise 6: Superman

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Return to the starting position. Repeat the sequence 15 times.

Start by going through each exercise in a row and repeating the series two times. Work your way up to doing the routine three times, twice a week.

Daphnie Yang is a dance instructor and an International Sports Sciences Association-certified trainer and race coach. She graduated from New York University with a BFA in Dance and Theatre Arts, and runs Definition Fitness by Daphnie, a private personal training company in NYC.

Model Jessalyn Gliebe is a dancer in NYC. Most recently she was featured in Shaun T’s “Hip Hop Abs” video and Cherie Lily’s “Dripping Wet” music video.

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