By Shoshana Pritzker

“Step up your routine with a few new ab exercises. They are worth the pain of doing them,” notes Ava Cowan, a fitness professional who has competed in the most prestigious Figure events worldwide, ranking top 3 in the world and becoming a social media phenomenon with 1 million followers at her peak. After a hiatus from competition, Ava is returning to the stage, having recently earned her WBFF professional status in Figure, with her pro debut set for December 3, 2021 in Atlantic City. Here she tells us about two of her favorite ab exercises and offers tips on getting a small waist.

Bench V-Ups and Incline Crunches

“I love the V-Ups on the bench because they target both the upper and lower part of the abs. The use of an incline bench to train abs really adds intensity to a stale ab routine. It also forces you to think as you train, as you cannot just cheat through the routine. It takes considerable effort and body control to master these moves.

‘Incline Crunches:

Lie on a decline bench with your feet fixed behind the bar at the top of the bench. Perform a sit-up using control throughout the movement.

• Beginner: cross hands over chest.

• Intermediate: rest hands behind head.

• Advanced: extend arms straight over your head with hands folded over one another toward the sky. Continue for reps.

Bonus: hold a medicine ball toward the sky throughout movement for added resistance.

Bench V-Ups

Using bench, grasp the bench close to your butt for stability; bring your legs and torso together, keeping legs straight. Slowly lower and repeat for reps. Beginners may use bent knee.

Ava’s #1 No-No: Side Bends

“I rarely train my obliques, because the muscle grows and adds thickness to the waist. So skip the side bends, unless you want to build the muscle there.”

A Nice, Small Waistline

“I have mastered a few ways to create the illusion of a nice, small waistline. If you add a bit of muscle to the shoulder area, this creates a more symmetrical shape, as most women carry body fat in the lower extremities. Adding some upper-body muscle is a way to balance your physique if you have larger hips or legs. The final touch would be to build a nice ‘V’ taper with a back routine that really focuses on the lats. That would also give the illusion of a smaller waist.”

Abs Are Created in the Kitchen

“Most importantly, a super-clean diet is essential. Abs are always created in the kitchen, and it often takes weeks of continuous clean eating to even see abs. I know the pain of dieting six to eight weeks and expecting better results. At that point, it is easy to get discouraged. Just stay the course, and eventually, the abs will come.”