Working out your core isn’t all about getting bikini-ready or burning fat to transform the muffin top into a sculpted six-pack. Sure, those are all benefits, but strong abs can do so much more.
The Benefits of Strong Abs
Without trying to state the obvious, your core is at the center of everything you do. How you walk, sit, move, stand, and bend are all centered on the muscles that wrap around your midsection. If your core isn’t strong, without ever engaging in exercise, injuries can occur just by going about your everyday activities. Some examples include:
- Lower back pain: Your abs help to provide support to your lower back. If your abs are weak, it can cause you to strain back muscles. Undeveloped ab muscles can also force your pelvis to tilt, which puts undue stress on your back and can lead to pain that radiates into your hips and legs.
- Poor posture. Sitting up straight and walking tall all start with a strong core. If your abs are underdeveloped, you’re more likely to slump in your chair or walk with a bit of a hunch. And with all the forward-facing activities everyone is doing (we’re looking at you desk typing, texting, and scrolling through Facebook), good posture is being tested every day, all day long.
- Bad balance: If you tend to be on the klutzy side, your core could be to blame. Strong abs and midsection muscles help to stabilize you when you move. When they’re weak, it could be like walking on shaky ground.
Let’s Get Strong Abs
Maybe you haven’t ignored your core–you do the occasional plank and some crunches to finish up your workout. But for a truly strong midsection, you need a routine that’s going to blast your abs. And to do so, we’ve created this circuit program to heat up your center.
Here’s how it works: Complete each exercise and the recommended reps. When you finish one exercise, move right into the next without a break. Repeat with all of the exercises. When you’re done, rest two minutes then do the circuit all over again. If you’re a fitness newbie, start with one round. If you’re more advanced, aim for three to to four rounds.
- 30-Second Star Plank: Start at the top of a push up, but instead of your hands below your shoulders, walk them forward and out a bit. Do the same with your feet so that your arms and legs almost make the shape of an “X” when looking down from the ceiling. Engage your core and keep your body in a straight line, making sure your butt doesn’t stick up in the air or your pelvis doesn’t sink to the floor.
- 10 Bicycle Crunches (each side): On your back, place your hands behind you head, making sure not to yank on your neck. Lift your feet off the floor so that your knees are over your hips and your legs are bent at a right angle. Engage your core and twist your body to the left, so that your right elbow touches your left knee, while your right leg straightens out and hovers inches above the ground. Repeat on the opposite side.
- 8 Level-Changing Planks: Start at the top of a push up with your hands below your shoulders and your legs and feet straight back from your hips. Bend one elbow and lower down to your forearm and then repeat with second arm. Pushing one arm up at a time, return to the starting position. This is one rep. Again, be sure to engage your core and keep your body in a straight line, making sure your butt doesn’t stick up in the air or your pelvis doesn’t sink to the floor.
- 10 Scissors (each side): Lie on your back with your feet straight up in the air at a 90-degree angle with your upper body. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the ground as if moving into a crunch. At the same time, kick one leg toward your upper body while you let the other lower and hover inches from the floor. Grab the back of your leg to gently pull it in toward you before letting go and switching to the other side.
- 25 Cross Body Climbers (each leg): Start at the top of a push up with your hands below your shoulders and your legs and feet straight back from your hips. As if running in a place, bring your right knee across under your body to your left elbow. Repeat on the other side, completing each rep in quick succession.
- Two-Minute Break
Track your progress each time you complete this routine. The easier it gets, the more rounds you should add. And the more rounds you can complete, the stronger your abs are likely becoming.
What ab exercises do you like to do? Share in the comments to help create a new crowd-sourced circuit.