When you think about working your abs, your mind probably goes straight to sit-ups and crunches. For a long time, those were thought to be the most effective ways to strengthen the abdominal wall. Sure, they do that; however, there are far more creative exercises that provide real life function and strength. Instead of aiming for a six-pack, try these exercises for pure core strength, which will improve your performance not only in workouts but in day-to-day life. Most of these exercises require no equipment — that means fewer excuses and more reason to go for it!
In a low or forearm plank, begin with your shoulders over the elbows and press back through the heels. Pull the belly button up and in as you roll through the toes and lift the hips.
Step 1: Come into your downward dog, pressing the heels into the floor. Then walk yourself down to your elbows and claps the hands together. Make sure the head drops between the arms. It's OK if the heels come off the floor since you're lower.
Step 2: Stabilize through the shoulders as you lean the chest forward, allowing it to come between the elbows. Keep the hips slightly piked, the the arch of a dolphin's back. As you come forward, you'll test your balance and challenge the core. Shift back to your starting position to complete your first rep.
Holding this position can build strength and burn calories. Keep the elbows over the shoulders and push away from the floor. Don't let the hips pop up or sag! Try it on your knees, too.
Step 1: Lie face down on floor resting on your forearms. Push up off the floor, raising up onto toes and resting on the elbows. Keep your back flat, contracting your abdominal muscles while you hold your body in a straight line from head to heels. Don’t let your butt sag or stick up in the air.
Open up the low plank to one side without letting your hips rotate forward or backward. Stack or stagger the feet depending on how well you can stabilize. Squeeze the bottom oblique!
Step 1: Begin by sitting on the floor on one hip and pushing yourself up into the side plank. The shoulder should be stacked over the wrist. The chest and hips are square to the same side. Stack or stagger (shown here) the feet for balance. Squeeze the lower oblique to stay lifted. Repeat on the other side.
Sit down and place your hands behind you, directly under the shoulders and push up into a reverse plank. If that's too easy, add a leg lift. Don't let the hips drop!
Step 1: Sit down and place your hands under your shoulders with fingers pointing forward. Lift the hips off the floor and walk the feet out until they're completely extended. Look up at the ceiling. This is your reverse plank position.
Step 2: Flex the feet to make it easier and squeeze the glutes to keep the hips lifted. You should not feel this in the lower back. Pull the belly button into the spine.
Step 3: Lift one leg up as far as you can without dropping your hips. This distance will vary for each individual.
Step 4: Replace the leg on the floor and switch sides. Exhale as you lift; inhale as you lower
We know we said no sit-ups or crunches, but this one really works! It really tests your balance and back more than a regular crunch would.
Step 1: Sit down, bend your knees, then raise your legs until the knees are over the hips. Raise your upper body until you create a “V” from the chest to the thighs. Extend the arms forward for balance. Pull the belly button in so you are not arching your back. Try to get your calves parallel with the floor.
Step 2: Inhale and extend the legs out as you drop the upper body, opening the "V" to become almost parallel with the floor. Think about being long. Flex or point the feet.
Begin on all fours, then extend the opposite arm and leg. Make your body as long as you can, then switch sides. This will train your functional core muscles.
Step 1: Get down on your hands and knees with your palms flat on the floor and shoulder-width apart. Relax your core so that your lower back and abdomen are in their natural positions. Brace your abs, and raise your right arm and left leg until they're in line with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position.
Step 2: Brace your abs, and raise your right arm and left leg until they're in line with your body. Hold for 5 to 10 seconds. Return to the starting position. Repeat with your left arm and right leg.
It's not all about the arms and chest here! You need a strong core to lift and lower the entire body in a straight line during the pushup. Inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up for better performance.
Step 1: Assume plank position, with your arms shoulder-width apart.
Step 2: Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
Begin in your low plank and scoot your feet together. Dip the hips from side to side, drawing an arc with your tailbone. You don't need to touch the floor.
Step 1: Begin in forearm plank position with shoulders directly over elbows. Your body should be in a straight, diagonal line from your head to your heels.
Step 2: Keeping your abs in tight and your shoulders above your elbows, rotate your torso as you drop your left hip to the ground.
Step 3: In a controlled motion, rotate your torso to the opposite side, dropping your right hip to the floor. That is one rep. Repeat for the allotted time.
Step 4: In between rotations, stop in the middle to get control of your balance if necessary.
Come down to your elbow and press through the palm. Keep the bottom hip lifted the entire time by squeezing the side oblique. As you stabilize, you'll open and shut the knees to work the glutes, too.
Step 1: Lie on your side and prop yourself up on your elbow with the elbow directly beneath your shoulder. Bend both of your knees at 45-degree angle, stacking your knees on top of one another. Rest the other hand on your hip.
Step 2: Squeeze the lower oblique so your torso and hips stay lifted. Keeping your feet together, and hips lifted, raise your right knee as high as you can without your heels coming apart. Pause, then return to the starting position.
This is a bit advanced, but totally works the lower abs. Come into your reverse tabletop and push the hips up into a straight line. Then bend them as you send them through your arms, staying lifted from the floor.
Step 1: Sit on the floor knees bent, feet on the floor, hands on the floor behind you with your fingers pointing toward your body. Lift your hips off the floor and are even with your knees.
Step 2: Swing your hips down while straightening your legs. Your hips should end between your arms. Hold and return to the starting position.
Grab some gliders or wash rags (paper plates if you're working out on carpet) and come down to your elbows. Tuck the knees into one side, then slide them over to the other side. Use your abs to control it instead of your arms.
Step 1: Find a smooth surface and get into forearm plank position, placing a towel or disks under your toes. If your elbows are sore or sensitive, pop up to a push up plank position. Your back should be straight and aligned with your head and toes.
Step 2: Slide your feet up to your right elbow. Your knees should naturally bend. Try getting your left knee to the right elbow. Feel the twist throughout your torso.
Step 3: Slide your feet back to start position and then reverse the movement. Tuck your right knee into your left elbow this time. That's one rep.
Again, grab the gliders, wash rags or paper plates and lie on your belly with your palms placed on the gliders. Reach out all of the way, pull the hands into the body as you lift the chest, then send them out to the sides, squeezing your lats.
Step 1: Place your hands on either of the gliders, belly to the floor.Slowly slide the hands straight forward, stretching your body into a straight position.
Step 2: After a pause at the stretched position, start pulling yourself back to the starting position as you breathe out. Tip: Go slowly and keep your abs tight at all times.
Step 3: While holding your chest and head up, slide your hands to your sides slightly in front of you.
Step 4: Send the hands back toward the hips, then push through to find your starting position again.
Place the gliders under your feet as you begin in a high plank. Using your core, shift more weight into your hands and drag the feet up. Think of raising your hips to the ceiling and look to your belly button.
Step 1: Begin in an all-fours position with your feet on top of the gliders. Lengthen your legs and stretch your heels behind you. Your hands should be under your shoulders. It is important to keep your ribcage knitted together and the abdominals strong in order to maintain a rigid torso. Keep your shoulder blades pulling away from your shoulders and toward your hips. Elbows must be straight and hands directly under your shoulders. Keep your legs active.
Step 2: Exhale. Keeping your legs straight and strong, pull your feet toward your hands. The ball will roll forward as your hips pike upward toward the ceiling. Continue this movement until your hips are directly over your shoulders, if you can. Your legs, torso and arms should all be straight and strong. Keep your neck long; your head between your arms. Your can point your toes but always keep your toes connected to the top of the ball.
Tip: This brings your body into somewhat of a handstand position. Be aware of your shoulder strength and keep the elbows straight.
Start in a high plank with the bells of your feet on the gliders. Without shifting your shoulders back, bring one knee up and under the chest, then switch. Hips down!
Step 1: Come to your hands and knees on the floor. Your hands should be slightly ahead of your shoulders and your fingers pointing forward. Bring one knee under your chest while extending the other leg behind you. Brace your abdominal muscles to stabilize your spine. Pull your shoulder blades down and back.
Step 2: Keeping your hands firmly on the ground, your abdominals engaged and shoulders strong, jump to switch leg positions. Both feet leave the ground as your drive your right knee forward and reach your left leg back. Now your left leg is fully extended behind you and your right knee and hip are bent with your right foot on the floor.
Ready to work those obliques? Kneel on one side and place your palm on the glider. Slowly slide it out and in, squeezing that lower oblique. Inhale to go out and exhale to come in again. This is a great postpartum ab workout too!
Step 1: Come to a seated position on one hip with the legs stacked over each other and bent at the knees. Place the bottom hand on the glider.
Step 2: Slowly slide the hand out keeping the elbow straight. Stabilize through the bottom oblique, going only as far as you can with good control. Pause at the bottom of the motion, and then slowly return the handle to the starting position. For multiple repetitions, avoid completely returning the weight to keep tension on the muscles being worked.
Using a sturdy box or step, place your feet on the top of it as close together as possible. Walk your hands out into a high plank and set them outside the shoulders as you press up and down. Use the core to control the body.
Step 1: Lie on the floor face down and place your hands about 36 inches apart while holding your torso up at arms length. Move your feet up to a box or bench. This will be your starting position.
Step 2: Next, lower yourself downward until your chest almost touches the floor as you inhale.
Step 3: Now breathe out and press your upper body back up to the starting position while squeezing your chest.After a brief pause at the top contracted position, you can begin to lower yourself downward again for as many repetitions as needed.
You can do these with your head up or down. Lift the legs, then bring them in, letting the knees fall out to the sides. Bring the heels together then press out again.
Step 1: Lie on your back with your arms at your side. Lift the legs, arms and head off the ground, keeping your lower back glued to the mat. Touch your heels together so your toes flex out to the sides.
Step 2: Pull the legs in, allowing the knees to bend out to the sides. You must keep your heels touching together. Extend the legs out to the starting position to complete one rep. If this is too straining, try propping yourself up on your elbows or resting your head on the mat.
Working the lower abs can be tricky, but this cyclone gets the job done. Keep your legs long and together. The circle can be as big or small as you want it to be.
Step 1: Lie flat on your back with your hands down at your sides, palms down. For extra comfort, you can place them underneath you, between your butt and lower back.
Step 2: Keeping your legs straight, raise them up until they form a 90-degree angle with your upper body.
Step 3: Drop them down and to your left, keeping your legs straight the entire time.
Step 4: Now rotate them to the center, straight in front of you about 6 inches off the floor.
Step 5: Swoop them to your right side, keeping the same hovering distance from the floor. Pull them back to that 90-degree angle. That’s one rep.
Note: If your lower back starts to arch and is no longer touching the ground, bend your knees and do not drop your legs as low.
Step 1: Come into your high plank with the shoulders over the hands and the body long and straight through the heels. You can spread your feet a little wider, to about hip-width, since you will be moving.Pull the belly button into the spine and let the shoulders pull away from you.
Step 2: Bring one foot up to the outside of your hand. This range of motion will depend on your flexibility, so try to get it as close as possible. Let the hips sink down so you feel a stretch.
Step 3: Return the foot to the first plank position, then repeat the step on the other side. Try to keep a steady tension in the core – avoid piking or dipping the hips as your transition from leg to leg.
Press through the arms and pull in the belly button. You do not want to feel anything in your lower back. Raise the legs off the ground a few inches and alternate up-and-down kicks. Keep the slack tight on your band throughout the movement.
Step 1: Come to a seated position and place your feet into the handles of the resistance band. Grab the center of the band and roll yourself down to the floor. Point your feet.
Step 2: Lift both feet off the floor. Pull the belly button into the spine. You'll have a small, natural curve in the lower back, but you don't want to arch it so much that your hips pop up. Modification: Come to your elbows.
Step 3: Move one up and the other down, simultaneously. They should be about 6 inches to 1 foot apart from each other, moving at a controlled pace.
You probably did this when you were a kid. Lie back and swing the legs up and over your head for momentum. Bring them forward and set them on the floor at the same time you lift the chest. Press into the floor and, without using your hands, jump up!
Step 1: To begin, lie on your back with arms at your sides and palms facing down. Lift your butt and lower back up in the air so that the bottoms of your feet are facing the ceiling.
Step 2: In one fluid motion, lower your back and legs and transition to your feet while jumping in the air as high as you can with arms extended straight overhead. That is one rep. Do as many as you can within 60 seconds.
Sit like a mermaid with both legs bent: one in front, one to the side. Lift the side leg up and down to target the obliques. Exhale with each pulse. Try not to lean into the opposite hand too much!
Step 1: Sit with your front shin parallel in front of you and your back knee far behind. Place your hands on either side of your front shin and lean forward slightly.
Step 2: Activating through your core and back seat, lift your bent back leg up. Perform all your reps, then, switch sides and repeat for allotted time.
Very similar to the gliding pike, you'll use a stability ball as anti-resistance. Start in a high plank then shift your weight to your hands as you tuck the knees in, curling the ball toward you. Pull the hips up to the ceiling.
Step 1: Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your shins on the stability ball.
Step 2: On an exhale, fold your body in half, pulling the ball forward toward your hands as your pelvis moves up in the air. Allow your head to fall between your shoulders, keeping your neck in line with your spine.
Step 3: Lower yourself back into a plank position and do not allow your pelvis to sag below your shoulders.
A classic ab move, the Russian twist will target the lower and side abs. Lean back as far as you want or lift the legs for more of a challenge. Twist side to side. If you get dizzy, just look straight ahead instead!
Step 1: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet on the floor and legs glued together. You'll clasp your hands together, too with arms extended out to one side to start.
Step 2: Move the arms up and over the top of the knees like a rainbow arch, dropping them down to the opposite side. This is when your obliques, the muscles on the sides that shape your waist, really get to work. You should keep your gaze straight ahead and slightly up, but if you're dealing with neck issues, you can turn your head with your twists.
Really engage your core with this ab-blaster! Come into a high plank on a stability ball and position your arms under your shoulders. Carefully lift one leg a couple inches as you hold your plank!0comments
Step 1: Using a stability, come into your high plank with your feet and ankles resting firmly on the ball. Bring your feet together to create a center of gravity with the ball. Your shoulders should be over the wrists and your hips should be lined up with the body — not sagging or piked.
Step 2: Slowly lift one leg a few inches to a foot off the ball. Point through the feet to create length. Only go as high as you can while keeping your balance.