Hot Abs In A Hurry!

Question from the audience: “Help! I’m going on vacation in 7 weeks and I need my abs to look good. What should I do?”

A: There are a number of ways to approach this problem. We’ll get to that. But first, I feel the need to lecture for a moment, and I can feel everyone’s eyes rolling at how annoying I am…Everyone with whom I have had the great fortune to work knows how I feel about questions like these. Getting stronger and healthier is most important, and good looks will naturally stem from your fitter, healthier, more energized and more confident appearance. Obviously, diet plays a big role. I am not a nutritionist, and you should consult one if you are looking for specific advice on how and what to eat. I can tell you in general that a good diet high in lean protein, vegetables and whole grains and low in processed sugar and simple carbohydrates will help you to build muscle and drop belly fat. The second part of what nobody wants to hear is that to accomplish the goal of attractive abs in 7 weeks, you are going to have to work hard. You are going to have to work up a sweat 5 or 6 days a week, and for suggestions on how to fit that into your life please feel free to email me at

Now, back to abs, which is what we really want to talk about. In addition to proper diet and a regular fitness regimen, core strengthening will eventually improve the appearance of your abdominal muscles. There are several ways to accomplish this. You can go to and click on “abs” under the “workouts” tabs for a series of core strengthening exercises. You can download core strengthening exercises from the Nike Training Club iPhone app. My favorite is Jeannette Jenkins’ “Ab Blast.” If you are in Stowe, you can attend any number of fitness classes in the area at a time that works for you.

I am fully aware that I can lead you to water but can’t make you drink. All of this at once may be too much for some of us. If you are paralyzed in terror at the thought of making all of these changes by yourself all at once, let’s start slowly. Let’s just start with one thing at a time. I am going to post a favorite core exercise every day for the next 5 days. Today, try just this one. Tomorrow, try #1 and #2, and so on. Your challenge is to do these exercises daily, make the changes that you can to your diet and fitness regimen, and see how you feel.

So exercise #1 for today is the dreaded plank! You know it and love it! And if you don’t, here it is:

I can feel more eyes rolling. But wait: The plank is an isometric (that means the muscles contract without changing length) exercise for your rectus abdominis (your “six pack” muscle) and transversus abdominis (your lower abdominals which play a major role in stabilizing your spine, and also look awesome in a bikini when toned), and also for your erector spinae in your back. It also works your scapular muscles, your glutes, quads, and calves. This is why we P.T. types love it.

To perform the plank: Assume the position. Pull in your belly button, squeeze your butt, squeeze your quads, press your elbows into the floor, breathe! Try to keep your head in line with your spine. If you rest your head on your hands to help you endure the horror of it all, your behind will go up in the air. Yes, it’s awful but you can do it. Start with a 20-second hold and work up to one minute. For the rock stars who get to a minute without collapsing to the floor, challenge yourself: Try to lift one leg and hold for a few seconds. Switch sides. Then try extending one arm in front of you without losing your good form. Switch sides. Then lift your right arm and left leg. Hold, return to starting position, and switch sides.

–Kathleen Doehla, M.S. P.T.