Absolutely Amazing Abs

We all want to look and feel great with strong abs all year long. I’ve selected a few of my favorite ab exercises for you to try and get results!


This is an excellent exercise that you’ll feel immediately and get nice results for your upper and lower ab region.

Ab Prayers

Preparation: Sit with feet slightly apart. Heels down, toes up. Lightly clasp hands. Lean back to where you can begin to feel your abs protruding without risking low back compensation. With good posture and shoulders back, focus on keeping your chest or sternum in a straight line. I recommend doing this in front of the mirror.

As you twist, keep head and chest pointed straight ahead. Attempt to touch the floor with your hands. Engage your abs, and really FEEL them as they assist you to bring back your hands mid line of your body and then to the other side.

The speed should be a fast to moderate tempo. I would try at least 3 sets of 25. Keep breathing fast, short breaths!

Ab Prayers

Progression: Try a medicine ball of 4-8 pounds or a dumbbell. Use the weight to get into a rhythm. Don’t let your arms take over.


Targets upper AND lower abs at the same time! This exercise has amazing results.

Ab Chests Lifts

Preparation: Place hands behind head, DO NOT lock fingers. Gently support head in nape of neck with fingertips.

Extend either leg and lift slightly off floor. If any lower back discomfort, raise extended leg higher. Tilt your pelvis towards you to encourage a nice, low back pressed to the ground. Bend knee of opposite leg. Imagine a pulley on your chest lifting you to the ceiling. Make sure you are looking above your eyebrow to prevent elbows from falling forward.

Ab Chests Lifts

Lift chest and shoulders off floor and force your abs to contract. As you lift, hold that contraction for a count of 2, breath out then come down slightly before lifting off the ground for your next rep. DO NOT allow your shoulders to come back to the floor, but keep the abs taught at all times. If you notice your elbows winging forward, look up and flatten them out, otherwise you’ll strain your neck and the exercise will have little effect.

Start with 3 sets of 25. Breathe out on the way up. Remember to build endurance and stick with it. You’ll soon notice that it will take you more reps to start feeling it. That’s a good thing!


The BOSU is a popular platform that adds new challenges and really can make your workout more fun and efficient. Here is a fun progression that demonstrates how to target your abs and obliques. This takes getting used to and if you’re just starting, you may quiver just a bit.

BOSU Ab Challenge

Preparation: Sit on top of the BOSU and scoot a little towards the floor, just below the center of the BOSU. Place your hands behind you to support your low back. As you begin to lean back you’ll notice your stomach protruding. This is a good indication that you are on target to begin.

Begin by contracting abs and pulling knees towards you, then fully extend your legs until they’re almost straight out in front of you.

BOSU Ab Challenge

Then to target the obliques, sit on your side with one hand in front of you and the other behind you for support, and do the same. You may need to find the sweet spot to get in this position. Be patient. Make sure your hip flexors or legs are taking the load, and really focus on the obliques.


INDO Board introduced the Gigante Training Disc, which was actually designed for stand up paddling and surfing balance fun. But I have found many other things to do with it. (See my recent article for Athleta here »)

There are many progressions you can do to make your ab workout on the Gigante fun and extra challenging. This 24 inch disc inflates up to 12 inches tall. For our workout, I’ve inflated it to about 5 inches. It’s more stable this way.

Gigante Ab Challenge

Similar to the BOSU, sit on top of the Gigante and place your hands behind you. Bring your knees to your chest, then extend your legs away from you. You are guaranteed to shake, quiver and wiggle — this is the fun part! I try to get my center very calm and still, and get very focused.

Gigante Ab Challenge

And then try your obliques! Remember, this disc moves in four directions so controlling it with your abs is hard work. But I promise it will get easier!

Gigante Ab Challenge

Then we progress once more to a medicine ball of 4–8 pounds. I’m using an 8 pound medicine ball. A simple dumbbell will do too.

Gigante Ab Challenge

We took lots of photos to get this right and you can see I found this to be fun and challenging. This time I raised the 8 pound medicine ball above my head slightly to help me with balance! Try different angles with the medicine ball if you like. Positioning your outer thigh more on your hip is your starting point. This progression really requires quick reaction to the Gigante, then finding the sweet spot before you go into the extension.

As you can see there are many different ab exercises to choose from. The key is to mix it up and never allow your body to get used to one exercise. By selecting fun ab exercises you will be more likely to see results sooner because they won’t be such a dreaded part of your workout. I tell my clients they will never ever do a traditional sit up in my studio or on the beach. Why, when there are way more fun things we can do?

Also keep in mind one cannot spot-reduce a specific body part. Being fit and healthy is a total body effort. Including a smart cardio program, making better food choices, and eating smaller portions all contribute to weight loss and toning.

I tend to do abs last in my training routines because your abs support you and keep your body upright while you are working out.

Lastly, remember just when you start to get uncomfortable is when your body will change.

Be well and healthy!

Warm aloha,

Suzie Cooney, CPT
SuzieTrainsMaui.com »
StandUpPaddlingFitness.com »
SuzieModelsMaui.com »

Suzie Cooney

Photos by Simone Reddingius. See more of her beautiful work & action photography on Flickr.com »

Catherine Dickson

May 25, 2010 at 8:13 pm


Ab-solutely love reading (and following) this ab article! I’m going to use the medicine ball atop the Bosu. It’s just the thing to get us all bikini-ready! Thanks for sharing with us.

P.S. Sure wish I could be there right next to you giving it a whirl. Looks stunning. Enjoy your outdoor sport time fun. Glad to know all is going well with you. 🙂
P.S.S. I, too, prefer to do abs last after training…I do feel them more later on in the workout.


May 26, 2010 at 10:31 am

While you’re at it, you can work the adductors by holding the ball between your lower legs. The squeezing action gives me some nice toning there, & I can really feel that “burn” before too many reps!

That beach does look heavenly, but I’ll be on one myself in a few weeks!

anne marie

May 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm

will these make me have legs like yours too w/the sweet hawaiian tan?!;-)

great exercises and pics! thx!

penny pavlica

June 01, 2010 at 7:34 pm

Gorgeous legs!!!! and I’m sure great abs too,, these are just a few of my favorites!!! 🙂

Suzie Cooney of Suzie Trains Maui

June 02, 2010 at 12:51 am

Thanks everyone for your kind comments! Funny, the legs are still mending and gaining strength from last year’s accident. Nut thank you. Lots of stand up paddling, surfing, cycling and squats.

Cross training your entire body is the answer.



June 02, 2010 at 6:49 am

wow, can’t wait to try it on maui in June. xojulie


June 16, 2010 at 1:35 pm

in the “AB CHEST LIFTS WITH EXTENDED LEG”, I am wondering what you are supposed to do after the 2 second hold and breathe out. You said to NOT let your shoulders come back to the ground but what do you do next, switch legs? I am trying very hard to sculpt my abs right now with a last layer of “flab” over them after losing 20 lbs in the last year. I need something very effective! Love your advice.

Suzie Cooney from Maui

June 16, 2010 at 1:50 pm

Aloha Kim and thanks for your quesiton.

The lift up as your breath comes out, counting 2 seconds = 1 rep. Then you simply come down slightly, shoulders still off the ground then lift up again for your next rep. These are what I do to get that cut look. I try to do about 200 a day if I can. Don’t forget to include cardio which is another key component.

Hope this answers your question.

Be well,

Mary Lanser

June 22, 2010 at 12:44 am

Those are some great ideas for working the abs. I find that stand up paddling (and sitting down; crouching or on my knees paddling) are the best ab work outs I can do. Standing up is great for working on balance, coordination and reflexes, but I find that when I sit down (legs out in front) and paddle with a straight back, changing sides with my paddle, I get a great ab workout while on my board. This is even more true when it is a bit windy and then I also get a disneyland ride cutting through the wind swells! Our abdominal muscles are so important, stressing a work out that strengthens them is invaluable to our overall health. As we age it is even more important to keep those core muscles strong. BTW I just ordered a swim suit top from Athleta, and finally found a top that not only fits a C cup, but also stays in place while I am paddling! Thanks Athleta!

Suzie Cooney from Maui

June 22, 2010 at 1:01 am

Aloha Mary! I see that you are from Hawaii! Yes, stand up paddling is AWESOME for the abs, especially paddling into the wind, and seated. I found this out yesterday on a long distance run here on the N Shore of Maui and I swear I thought my abs were getting the ultimate test!

Glad you like the suits and thank you for your comment.

Suzie Cooney

Christie Jones

June 23, 2010 at 5:01 am

OK, I am digging all of the ABS exercises that you’ve shown us and will try them all out for sure! However, my question to you is how to you get such gorgous shaply legs!!! I am a big tennis player, singles and doubles and also always try to get in a lot of squats and lunges, but, hey, for some reason my legs do not look anything like your’s!!! Any suggestions? I am not close to a beach so the surfing would not be possible for me, unfortunately.


Christie Jones

Suzie Cooney from Maui

June 23, 2010 at 11:59 am

Aloha Christie,

Thanks for stopping by ATHLETA and sharing your comments. Well, the legs have been through a lot last year April, wheelchair bound for 2 months, so they are still quite atrophied so I’m glad you think they’re strong. I’m doing lots of stand up paddling, long distance and wave riding and that helps. If you live near any body of water, SUP or stand up paddlng helped me get my legs back! I also have long legs so I’m lucky I guess.

We are all so different our body types. Tennis is a great way to get great legs, and yes lunges. Lots of them. Be sure to mix up the type of lunges you do. Speed walking is great and less jarring on the knees and back. I also use ankle weights of 3lbs in various exercises standing and while on the ground.

Be well,

Helen Kilgallen

June 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm

Absolutely loved your ab exercises. I introduced to my students at the end of my yoga class and they loved them. They were easy to follow and really engaged our core muscles. We do alot of core in our yoga classes but sometimes it is good to focus on the abs. Thank you I will add them in all my classes.


July 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Can you explain the best way to breathe in the prayer sit up. Do you exhale as you turn to the side and then inhale back to center.

Suzie Cooney from Maui

July 13, 2010 at 10:30 am

Aloha Helen,
Thank you for your question. Exhale as you turn from side to side, and inhale at midline of body as proceed.
Regards and in good health,
Suzie Cooney

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