Your core is about so much more than just your abdominal muscles. It comprises the main abdominal muscle (rectus abdominus, a.k.a. the “six pack” muscle) that allows you torso flexion, or what happens when you sit up from lying down or bend over. Then there’s your internal and external obliques, which are responsible for torso flexion in conjunction with rotation; this happens when you sit up and simultaneously twist to one side—like when you wake up and reach for the snooze button. Your transverse abdominus muscle is responsible for pulling your belly in towards your spine to create a contracted, flat tummy. If you knew someone was going to punch you in the belly, you’d brace your core to prepare—that’s your TVA! And there are many other muscles that work together with all of the ones I just mentioned to stabilize your pelvis and spine.
That’s why a boring old “ab” workout just won’t cut it. This workout, on the other hand, hits your abs and core from a 360-degree approach to make sure all of your glorious muscles get some love.
The Workout: Perform the following five exercises in a row with no rest between sets. Then, rest one minute and complete the exercises again. Rest two minutes and complete the exercises one more time for a total of three sets.
Check out a summary of the workout in the pin-able graphic below, and then check out the step-by-step instructions for each exercise.
EXERCISE 1STRAIGHT ARM PLANK
Begin on your hands and knees with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees directly under your hips. Brace your torso by contracting as if someone were going to punch you in the tummy. Step back so that your legs are straight and your feet are together so that you are at the top of a push-up position. Focus on keeping your core contracted without flattening your lower back—if you keep your core braced, there will be a very slight tucking-under of your pelvis. Actively push away from the floor as if you were being sucked up towards the sky. Hold this position for one minute. If this is not challenging enough for you, aim for 75 seconds.
EXERCISE 2FOREARM SIDE PLANK
Sit on your left hip and place your left elbow directly under your left shoulder. Knees should be straight with a slight bend, and feet should be stacked on top of each other and flexed so that there is a 90-degree angle at your ankles. Brace your torso by contracting as if someone were going to punch you in the tummy. Contract the left side of your torso to lift your hips off the floor and in line with your feet and shoulders (A). Hold at the top for three seconds, then lower back down (B). That’s one rep; do 10.
EXERCISE 3REVERSE OBLIQUE CRUNCH
Lie on the floor with your legs up and slightly bent, hands at your sides with palms faced down (A). Brace your torso by contracting as if someone were going to punch you in the tummy. Lift your hips up and twist them to the right slightly so as to contract through the right side of your torso. Hold for three seconds, then release down to the start position, keeping your legs in the air. That’s one rep. Repeat the movement on the other side. That’s two reps. Continue alternating sides, and do a total of 20 reps.
EXERCISE 4DUMBBELL CHOP
Using a five- or eight-pound dumbbell, stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and knees bent slightly. Brace your torso by contracting as if someone were going to punch you in the tummy. Extend your arms up and over you right shoulder, allowing your torso to twist to the right slightly (A). Keeping a slight bend at the knees, activate the muscles of your entire core, including your ab muscles, to cause the movement, and bring the dumbbell downward so that you end with the dumbbell outside your left knee (B). Pause for a moment and squeeze your abdominal muscles. With control, raise the dumbbell back up to the starting position. That’s one rep. Do 15, then switch sides.
EXERCISE 5HIP CROSSOVER
Lie on your back with your legs up, knees bent at 90 degrees directly over your hips. Extend your arms directly out from your shoulders and turn your palms upward (A). Brace your torso by contracting as if someone were going to punch you in the tummy. With control, lower your legs to the right until your feel pressure and contraction in your core, but without allowing your left shoulder to rise off the floor (B). Using the strength of your core, pull your legs back to the starting position. That’s one rep. Repeat the movement on the other side (C), then return to the starting position. Continue alternating sides, and do a total of 20 reps.