All right, everyone, calm down, don’t panic, it’s not nearly as bad as you think! We aren’t going to launch into V-ups right off the bat. No way. First we’re going to get the hang of the basic position. So make yourself comfy, roll up a towel or mat to sit on so you won’t turn your sacrum black and blue, and have a seat, with your knees flexed in front of you.

Now you’re going to keep your back straight, draw in your belly button, and lean back slowly until you feel your rectus abdominis (“6-pack” muscle) working. When you are ready, lift your feet off the floor, arms by your side or out to the side for balance, knees together, until you look somewhat like this (don’t worry about your hair and the outfit):

If just holding this position feels like enough of a workout for you, you can hold it right here for one minute. You also can make it more challenging by trying to hold the position on an uneven surface like a BOSU (the balance apparatus you see at the gym that looks like half a yoga ball). You also could perform mini-crunches right here by bringing your knees and chest closer together and farther apart.

Those of you who feel ready for the V-up can lie flat on your back, arms by your sides. Pull in your belly button and lift up into the V-position. Make sure you are using your abdominals, not muscling up with your head and neck for momentum. Hold for a dramatic pause, then return to the starting position. You can perform a certain number of repetitions, such as 3 sets of 10, or for a certain time interval, such as one minute.

The rock stars who are bored by this exercise can start lying flat on the ground with their arms outstretched overhead, and V-up from there into this position, and if you really want a challenge, have no back pain currently, and truly want to know what misery feels like, add a small weight to your hands when you start from the arms overhead position. Just please don’t drop it on your head.

–Kathleen Doehla, M.S. P.T.