Bikini season is right around the corner. Have you seen your abs? If not, you still have time to make a noticeable difference in the way you look on the beach or at the pool through diet and exercise. Before you start, read these six exercise myths from Marie Claire and learn why when it comes to ab quality, not quantity, is the name of the game.
1. Myth: To get rock-hard, you have to work your abs every day.
Why: Abs need rest and recovery: It's only during rest that your muscles build. "Three to five days a week of consistent, dedicated abdominal training should get you strong, sleek abs," says Kathy Kaehler, and author of Kathy Kaehler's Workouts.
2. Myth: A good ab workout takes half an hour.
Why: "If it takes you that long to feel them working, you're doing something wrong," says Kaehler. "I trained Jennifer Aniston about three days a week, and we did no more than five minutes of abs each time." Check your form, don't use momentum and focus on quality rather than quantity.
3. Myth: Super-slow crunches make you stronger.
Why: Taking as much as a minute per crunch doesn't make you stronger than regular crunches do. In fact, ultra-slow ab work is less effective. Ideally, your workout should help you do everything better, from kickboxing to picking up a suitcase - neither of which you do in slo-mo.
4. Myth: The best time to train your abs is at the end of your workout.
Why: "It makes no physiological difference when you train abs, it only matters that you do it consistently," says abs researcher and physical therapist Gilbert Willett, M.S., associate professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. So the best time to work them is simply whenever you're most likely to do it. "But if you do abs at the beginning of your workout, make sure you warm up first. Getting blood moving prevents many types of injuries during a workout."
5. Myth: You can't get a six-pack by doing .
Why: "Pilates exercises your core, so if you practice it regularly and combine it with diet and cardio, it can give you a six-pack," says Kimberly Lyons, a personal trainer in L.A. But Pilates isn't a six-pack guarantee. "How your abs look has a lot to do with your genes, how lean you are, how long your torso is and how tall you are."
6. Myth: You won't get firm without a weight machine.
Why: You don't need weights sleek and sexy abs, although some competitive athletes do use them to build extra strength. "Many weighted ab machines aren't designed for women," says Lyons. "If you don't fit into the machine properly, you might stress your body in the wrong spot." Her advice: Stick to the floor - it's , effective and available everywhere.