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To do a side bend, stand with your feet hip-width apart holding a pair of dumbbells at your sides. Bend sideways to the right, squeezing your waist on the right side. Keep your neck as neutral as possible, looking forward, not down. Switch sides, and bend to the left.

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Most people who want a firmer, flatter midsection typically focus on their abs, wasting their time doing endless crunches, says David Turnbull, owner of TurnFit Personal Training, in Vancouver.

Hardly anyone thinks to work their obliques, the muscles on the sides of your body just above the hips. “Obliques are definitely a muscle that do get neglected,” Turnbull says.

Developing strong obliques won’t just make you look like a G.I. Joe action figure. They’re also important for stabilization, which will help you stay balanced.

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Turnbull recommends three exercises, each of which works groups of large muscles, burning more fat than crunches can. Burning fat is essential to revealing your abs and obliques.

These exercises – the suitcase walk, side bends and the cable wood chop – will also strengthen your core and improve your overall strength and stability.

“The suitcase walk will help you with your balance,” Turnbull says. “You’re working a very large muscle group – your legs – and all of your core is activating.”

Hold a dumbbell in one hand and walk for 30 seconds for each side, keeping your hips and shoulders aligned and making sure your shoulders are level.

To do a side bend, hold a dumbbell in one hand and, keeping your other arm at the side of your body, bend to the side holding the weight.

“You’re bending over from a standing position, almost like a side crunch,” Turnbull says. Bend until your hand is just above your knee.

As for the cable wood chop, stand 90 degrees to a cable machine and take a rope fixed to the cable and pull down, rotating all the way across your body – as if, you know, you were chopping wood. Make sure to keep your arms straight without bending your trunk.

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Do a high number of reps for all three exercises, as much as 15 or 20, Turnbull says.

“For core, you can really beat the heck out of it,” he says.

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