Reader question: One year ago, I gave birth to my daughter and have since started a fitness program. Still, I have not been able to get rid of my pooch. Can you recommend an effective ab exercise?

Answer: Congratulations on your bundle of joy. As you add exercise to your day, I caution you to avoid falling prey to a few common fitness mistakes: spot training, lack of variety and sporadic workouts.

Start by eating a low-fat diet and commit to regular exercise. Avoid spot reducing and mix up your fitness routine. And post important, don’t give up. Before starting any exercise program, check first with your doctor.

With all that said, I recommend you try the bicycle to work those abs. No, not the kind with two wheels and a handlebar; I’m talking about a floor exercise.

The bicycle was rated one of the best ab workouts by the American Council on Exercise. I like performing bicycles because it’s a power-packed move that requires no equipment. It tightens abdominals and obliques (muscles in waist) and works the iliopsoas, aka hip flexors, (muscles that allow you to move hips and turn or rotate from side to side).

Let’s get started

• Lie flat on your back, with your lower back pressed firmly to floor. For an added benefit, pull your navel in to go a little deeper into abs (without holding your breath). Add mat for comfort.

• Comfortably put your hands behind your head with fingertips touching in a slight clasp (do not lock your fingers tight), while keeping elbows straight. Bring knees in towards the chest and lift shoulder blades off the ground (take caution to support neck and do not pull neck).

• Straighten right leg out roughly 45-degrees, hovering off floor (about hip height). While turning upper body to the left, aim the right elbow toward the left knee. Be sure rib cage is slightly turning as elbows move.

• Switch sides and complete same steps on the other side to complete one rep.

• Work toward three sets of 20 reps

Training Tips: Ditch the rhythm and opt for slow and controlled repetitions. Concentrate on breathing and correct form. Do not touch elbow to knee; this can strain the neck.

Bicycle With Modification

Instead of placing the hands behind the head, I recommend performing Bicycles sitting on a bench:

• Sit comfortable on exercise bench.

• Place hands under bench and hold the bench. (This will stabilize your leg muscles and allow them a complete range of motion.)

• Lean back slightly, move slowly and bring each knee into the chest for maximum abs benefit.

This option is good if you have trouble with your back

As you become more comfortable with bicycles, try adding other ab exercises. In fact, experts recommend changing up a routine every six to eight weeks to challenge new muscles and avoid boredom. Finally, resist the urge to push yourself too hard or too fast; as will do more harm than good and may lead to injuries.

Until next time, I wish you joy and wellness!

Fitness expert Sondra E. Z. Hines, is a former adjunct professor with 15-plus years experience in health and fitness. She is an AFAA certified Group Fitness Instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. Follow her on Twitter.

Sondra E. Z. Hines is an AFAA-certified group fitness instructor, Zumba instructor, workshop presenter and motivational speaker. A former adjunct professor, she has 15-plus years as a fitness instructor...