HERE'S SOME GOOD NEWS. The lastest trend in fitness affirms what Suzanne Somers has preached all along: If you want a ripped six-pack, short, targeted abdominal workouts can be more effective than long hours at the gym. So says Jonathan Roche, award-winning fitness expert and founder of Boulder, Colorado-based Breakthrough Health and Fitness. According to Roche, you can gain significant core strength and balance with as little as three 15-minute ab sessions a week.
"The trick is to concentrate on keeping clean, meticulous form for every move," says Roche. The payoff? For skiers like 2005 World Dual Moguls champ Toby Dawson, it's a rock-solid core and catlike balance-the keys to stronger skiing and injury prevention.
To get your gut of steel, leave the Ab Roller in the closet and run through Roche's ball workout, which targets your entire abdominal wall, as well as your quads, glutes, and balance muscles. Do it three times a week on nonconsecutive days. Depending on how many reps and sets you can muster, the workout should only take between 15 and 25 minutes. You can see photos of each workout by clicking on the slideshows.
You'll need a Bosu Balance Trainer, an eight-pound, two-handled Gaiam Abs Ball, and a stability ball. Check out the "Get the Goods" slideshow for where to get them.
[""]ABS BALL: RUSSIAN TWIST
(Three sets; 15 reps)
Sit with your torso at a 45-degree angle off the floor, knees bent, heels touching the ground. Holding the Abs Ball with arms slightly bent, rotate side to side, twisting your trunk and touching the ball to the floor on each side.
Make It Harder: Do the same move, but with both feet elevated several inches off the ground.
ABS BALL: JACKKNIFE
(Three sets; 15 reps)
Lie on your back, holding the Abs Ball overhead, arms parallel with elbows beside your ears. Then, raise your arms and legs toward each other. To keep your lower back safe, it's important to press it against the floor throughout the move, says Roche: "Think of making a U shape with your body, instead of a V."
Make It Harder: Stop at a 45-degree angle, and hold for three to five seconds.
BOSU BALANCE TRAINER: SIDE-TO-SIDE SQUATS
(Three sets; 30-second intervals, building to 90-second intervals)
Place the Bosu trainer flat side down on the floor and stand to its right. Shuffle up and over the ball, touching the ground on the left side with your left foot and sinking into a slight squat. Keep your right foot on the ball, and immediately bound up and over the ball back to the right, touching down with the right foot. Repeat.
Make It Harder: Sink down into a full squat (with one foot on the ball and one on the floor) at either side of the lateral move. Make sure your knees don't travel beyond your toes when bent, and keep your chest up and open, says Roche.
[""]BOSU BALANCE TRAINER: BALANCE SHIFTS
(One set; 12 to 20 reps (6 to 10 per side) for each hand pattern)
Stand on the ball, knees soft. Start with your arms out in front of you, parallel to the floor and palms down. Move one arm to the side in the same plane, keeping your eyes focused on the moving hand; then bring it back to center. Repeat with the opposite arm. Next, raise one hand at a time toward the ceiling in a half-windmill; then trace a complete windmill with each hand. "Vision is the key to balance," says Roche. "Fixating on a moving object throws off your equilibrium, forcing you to compensate with increased stability."
Make It Harder: Do it with your eyes closed.
STABILITY BALL: TRUNK ROTATIONS
(Three sets; 15 reps)
Sit on a stability ball and walk your feet forward, rolling your back onto the ball so that it supports your upper back and neck. Extend your arms straight overhead, hands pointing to the ceiling. Twist both arms slowly to one side until they're parallel with the flooor; then swing the arms up and over to the opposite side.
Make It Harder: Bring one leg several inches off the floor while you do the move.
[""]STABILITY BALL: BALL TILT
(Three sets; four reps, building to 15 reps)
Start with forearms balanced on the ball, hands together, feet on the floor extended out from the ball. Arms should line up with shoulder joints and feet should be together. The move is subtle: Roll the ball a few inches to the right, then to the left, then forward, and then back, hitting the four points of the compass. If you feel any low-back pain, stop. One four-way tilt equals one rep.
Make It Harder: Move your feet farther from the ball.
LOSE YOUR JELLY ROLL
You do most of the right things-stay active, eat in moderation, work your abs. But what about that little jiggle around the middle? Jonathan Roche has some tips to lose the last five pounds.
1. Don't rehydrate on beer. Having an après pint (or three) is part of skiing-but you can cut down on those Coors calories by filling yourself up with a big glass of water with every beer.
2. Drink (gasp!) light beer. Over the course of the year, it could mean the difference between losing 10 pounds and gaining 10.
3. Ski with a hydration pack. Swilling water or Gatorade will help diminish that 10 o'clock stomach rumble-and water flushes the toxins out of your system and keeps your metabolism revved up.
4. Eat whole foods. Whole foods like brown rice, vegetables, and lean meats help you feel fuller, longer-unlike a bag of chips, which has no nutritional value.
5. Watch your portions. The average American ate 2,150 calories a day in 1970-and packs away 2,700 now. Translation? If you order the Frisbee-size burger, eat half-and give the rest to the dog. Then take the dog for a walk.