I know a lot of people skip working out their abs, but it is actually one of my favorite muscle groups to work on. I love trying to get my stomach to look strong and fit!
I want to share a few of my favorite ab exercises. The great thing about these is that most of them can be done at home. I would recommend working out your abs at least 3 times a week (try to space the days out). On your “ab days”, pick 3 different exercises and do 10-20 reps of each exercise (depending on how hard each specific one is for you) then repeat for 3 sets. Sometimes, when I get bored of that routine and don’t want to do 3 sets, I pick 5 different exercises and do 20 reps of each just to mix it up a little. Try not to stop between each exercise, keep moving and keep those abs working! The bottom line is, no matter how many you can do or what your fitness level is, just make sure you are challenging yourself.
You can do this exercise on the floor or on an inverted bench. When on the floor, try to hold your feet off the ground if possible. If you do not have access to a medicine ball (weighted ball), you can always hold a dumbbell. If that is too hard, you do not need to hold any weights.
Lean back at a 45 degree angle, your back should never touch the ground during this exercise. Twist through your abdomen and swing your arms side to side (without stopping in the middle, it is a continuous motion). Go slow and stay in control.
Planks are probably one of the most amazing exercises out there. They work so many awesome muscle groups at the same time. Not only will your abs be working, but also your back, your shoulders, your quads, and that booty :).
It is very important to hold yourself in the correct position when doing a plank. Make sure you are not dropping your hips or sticking them up in the air. You want your entire core to be held tight and to be “engaged.” Watch yourself in a mirror or have someone take your picture when you are trying planks to learn the correct positioning, then you will learn what the right positioning feels like.
I like to do planks on my forearms but you can also be in push up position. This is true for a front hold plank and a side plank.
When first starting out, try to hold your plank for 20 seconds to 1 minute (depending on your fitness level), then as you get stronger, increase the time. If you are not to the point where you cannot hold it any longer when your time is up, you need to lengthen your time.
This is a great exercise that works both your upper and lower abdominal muscles. You want both your feet to stay off the ground the entire time. Your shoulders should also stay off the ground.
Alternate sides while “pedaling” your legs in the air like you are on a bicycle. It is important to go slow and stay in control during the workout.
Leg lifts can be done while laying flat on the ground or on a “captains chair.” To make it more challenging, lift your shoulders off the mat when on the ground. This targets your lower abs (that muffin top that we all love so much).
Slowly raise your legs to a 90 degree angle then slowly lower. You do not want your legs to ever rest on the ground! You can also use this to target your obliques by lowering your legs side to side while on the ground, and lifting them side to side when performing on a captains chair.
I truly have no idea what the real name of this exercise is, but I have known it as “jelly bellies” since I was in gymnastics as a kid haha! I love them though and I really do think they work.
Start out in a hollow hold (legs and shoulders off the mat) then pull yourself up to where your legs and chest meet, and go back into a hollow hold. Your legs and shoulders should never touch the mat. Keep it slow and in control.
V into Hollow Man:
This is a really tough exercise. Try it, there is no way you won’t feel it working!
Start out in a hollow hold. While keeping your legs straight, pull your legs and your chest up, then back down into a hollow hold. Do not ever touch the ground with your legs or your shoulders.
Yep, just like in gym class. Sit ups not only work your abs, they are also a hip flexor exercise. Strengthening your hip flexors is important in injury prevention, specifically in preventing IT band injuries.
Try not to let your feet lift off the ground while you sit up. If you need to, have someone hold your feet then do it on your own once you are strong enough. You can also do this on an inverted bench and with or without added weight. When on a bench, do not ever rest your back down on the bench.
Crunches with lifted legs:
Crunches are not the most effective ab exercise, but there are a lot of variations that are beneficial! This is one that I like.
Keep your legs at a 90 degree angle as you do a crunch. Remember to keep your chin up and NEVER pull on your neck with your arms.
Dumbbell Side Bend:
This is another exercise that I do often. It works good on those awesome love handles. Use a heavy enough weight that you can feel it working, but do not make it so heavy that it strains your back. Make sure you are staying straight as you bend to the side so you are protecting your back. Again, go slow and stay in control.
While holding a dumbbell in one hand, slowly bend to the side and then back up to a standing position.
I said this on many of the exercises, but always go slow and stay in control. It will work your abs better and will also help you keep correct positioning to avoid injuries.
One last thing that is worth noting-remember, working out is only half of the equation. If you want results, you have to be eating right. I am not talking about a “diet” or a quick fix. It is a lifestyle change. We are here to help you with that! We will continue to post about making healthy changes and please ask us any questions you may have.