There’s leg day, upper body day, cardio fitness, recovery… where’s ab day? We’re going to make a case that you should give your midsection the same amount of love you give the rest of your body. Here’s the recipe for a strong core.
How often should you be working your abs?
That depends on the goal you’ve set for yourself. For abs to begin developing, you need to be regularly stimulating your stomach muscles with new challenges. Try doing an abs workout every other day, around 10 to 20 reps per exercise. If you can do the same movement more than 30 times in a row, that move is probably too easy for you. Level it up by adding weight or difficulty, or swap in an exercise that’s more challenging.
It could also be quite challenging. If you haven’t worked your stomach muscles in a long time, don’t worry. You’re probably stimulating them more often than you think! But know that isolation exercises are not the only exercises that work the stomach. Try to mix these exercises in with a balanced routine of full-body workouts.
If you’re an endurance athlete, like a runner, having a stable, strong core is essential to staying in the best shape. Doing a short ab workout before or after a jogging session will strengthen your core which will prevent you from developing injuries like arch or hip pain.
How do ab muscles form?
Even when you’re not working out, you’re constantly contracting your stomach muscles. Analyzing the anatomy of your abdomen can help you better understand what’s going on.
Your abdominal muscles are skeletal muscles that come in pairs. They connect the thorax with the pelvis, and they cover the entire abdominal and pelvic region — hence the name “abdominal muscles.”
Every time you turn or tilt your upper body, your abs are hard at work. If you didn’t have ab muscles at all, you literally wouldn’t be able to stand up, grab groceries out of the trunk of your car, or bust a move on the dance floor. If you are differently abled, your core might be even more crucial, since it is a source of balance and force production, and many of these moves can be modified for ultimate muscle work.
Here’s how to get it done. Pick five moves and do each for 30 seconds, then rest for up to one minute. Repeat two or three times.
Lie on the floor, knees high, feet on floor, arms to sides and fingertips cupping ears, to start. Engage abs and raise shoulder blades off the floor, with face lifting toward the ceiling.
Hold plank position, hands and feet on floor, hands under shoulders, legs close together, a straight line between heels and head.
- Butterfly sit-ups
Lie on the floor, using an ab mat if available, pressing soles of shoes together, knees off the floor and pointed to the sides, to start. Put hands behind your head, engage core, keep back straight and shift up, arcing hands to touch your heels, then reverse to return to start and repeat continuously.
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- Leg lifts
Lie with legs together and straight, feet neutral, toes gently pointed to ceiling, palms pressing into floor. Maintaining soft knees, with low back pressed into floor, lift legs until soles of feet are facing ceiling, then lower legs until heels tap floor and immediately lift.
- Russian twist
Sit holding a light weight plate, kettlebell, or dumbbell. Sit on the floor, legs bent at a 45° angle, heels on the floor, toes up. Start by lifting heels about six inches off the floor and rotate the weight across your torso to the side of your body and back continuously. If that’s too hard, leave your feet on the floor. If that’s too easy, increase the weight.
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- Plank with hip rotation
Start in a low plank, forearms on floor, parallel to shoulder blades and touching each other. Rotate body to the right, letting feet roll to right, as you reach right fingertips to ceiling. Reverse and repeat on left. Continue at a controlled pace.
- Mountain climbers
Start in a high plank, hands below shoulders, a straight line between heels, shoulder blades, and head. Draw right knee toward chin, then switch legs so only one foot is on the ground at a time. Continue quickly. If that’s too challenging, slow it down, picking up one foot and replacing it before reversing.
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- Superman plank
Start in a low plank, forearms on floor, elbows under shoulders, heels making a straight line with legs, back, and head. Keeping your gaze toward the ground, simultaneously reach forward with your left hand and kick your right leg up and back. Return to start and repeat on the other side. If this is too challenging, slow down the reps, and take longer rests.
- Side plank hip dips
Lie on left side, left forearm on floor, fingers pointed away from face, right hand pointed toward ceiling, feet stacked. Start by lifting into a side plank, then drop hip toward floor and immediately reverse to high plank. Repeat continuously. On the next set, start on the right side. If that’s too hard, start from the floor, rise to a high plank, and return to the floor, taking more time between movements. If that is too easy, place a dumbbell atop your hip and hold it with your top arm.
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