If ab exercises make you think of a desire to look better in your jeans, you’re not alone. But there are other reasons why strong, toned abs should be on your wish list to stay in shape.
Technically, your abdominal muscles consist of five main muscles:
Rectus Abdominis: Located between the rib cage and the pelvic bone, it is more commonly known as the “six pack”.
External obliques: These are located on the sides of the rectus abdominis and allow your trunk to twist.
Internal obliques: They also flank the rectus abdominis muscle, but inside the hip bones, and also aid in twisting motions.
Transverse abs: These are located behind the obliques and help stabilize the trunk. They are also sometimes called the corset muscles.
Pyramidalis: This small triangle-shaped muscle is located in the pelvis and helps maintain internal abdominal pressure.
Together, these muscles are responsible for your ability to lean or bend.
But these muscles are only part of your core, which refers to the muscles that essentially form the base of your body, allowing you to keep it upright. All movement originates in the core, so it’s important to prioritize a core-focused form of exercise in your daily routine. The trunk also includes the erector spinae muscles, which help stabilize you when you stand or sit, lift, or rotate your upper body.
By working all these muscles, your abdominal muscles and the muscles of your spine, together, you will get a more sculpted belly. Most importantly for your overall health and functioning, this core strengthening improves balance, posture and mobility, while reducing the risk of injury and certain types of chronic pain (such as in the lower back). Bottom Line: Stronger abs make general aging a little easier.
To achieve this, try a mix of isometric exercises (static, like the plank, where a muscle gets stronger as it stabilizes) and dynamic exercises. And remember: Just because you can’t see a six-pack doesn’t mean you don’t have strong abdominal muscles. Don’t be fooled by what social media defines as a strong core. There are people who don’t have visible abs but can 100% carry more weight than this model on Instagram.
How to do the workouts
Here are three workouts that each target all of your abdominal and core muscles. You can choose the Beginner, Intermediate, or Advanced circuit depending on your fitness level, working your way to the more difficult moves.
Repeat the exercises for each circuit three times to achieve one workout. Rest as little as possible between movements (no more than 90 seconds). Aim to complete your workout, at whatever level you choose, twice a week, and when you’re ready to increase the intensity, do it three times a week.
Note: If you have any injuries or health conditions that may limit your ability to exercise, consult your physician before beginning a new workout.
Circuit for beginners
1. Dead insect
Lie on your back, arms outstretched, shoulders stretched up to the sky. Bend and raise your knees so they form a 90 degree angle. (Shins should be parallel to floor.) Contract abs and press lower back into floor. Hold this position for as long as possible, up to 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat two more times.
Place your hands and knees on the floor, then rest your forearms on the floor to support your body weight. The elbows should be directly below your shoulders; the hands can hold each other (forearms angled towards each other) or flat on the floor (forearms parallel to each other). Step your feet back so that your body forms a straight line, parallel to the ground, from shoulders to ankles. Contract your core and hold this position for as long as possible, up to 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat the exercise two more times.
3. Side Plank
Start with the plank pose. Place your right elbow directly under the middle of your chest, facing forward, then raise your left hand to your waist, stacking your left foot over the right (so that the left leg is also stacked over the right ). Raise your left arm skyward, keeping your hips lifted and your glutes tight. Hold this position for as long as possible, up to 45 seconds, then rest for 15 seconds. Repeat two more times, then switch to the other side and repeat.
Start by sitting in a V position on the floor, balancing on your buttocks, legs extended diagonally in front of you and arms extended diagonally behind you (so that your limbs form a V). Bring the right elbow towards the left knee, keeping the chest open and extending the right leg lengthwise. Repeat the exercise on the opposite side, bringing the left elbow towards the right knee. Do as many reps as possible while maintaining correct form, up to 20 reps.
2. Passing the plank with the elbows
Return to a side plank position. Raise your upper right arm to the sky. (If it’s too difficult, modify the position by placing the lower knee on the floor, the leg pointing behind you). Bend slightly at the waist to reach the floor and bring your upper arm through the space between your side and the floor. Return to your original position and repeat. Do as many reps as possible while maintaining correct form, up to 20 reps. Repeat on the other side.
3. Side plank, knee to elbow
Start in a side plank position with your right elbow on the floor supporting you, keeping your hips lifted and your glutes tight. Extend your left arm above your head, then slowly bring your left knee to touch the left elbow, tucking your body in. Return to the starting point. Do as many reps as possible while maintaining good form, up to 20 reps. Repeat the exercise on the other side.
1. Touches of the hips
Start in a plank position (forearms resting on the floor and supporting the weight of the body) with the hips slightly elevated in a stake position. Drop the left hip towards the floor, return to the point hip position and drop the right hip towards the floor. Keep alternating to do as many reps as you can while maintaining correct form, up to 18 reps.
2. Leg Curl
Start in a standing position with your feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Lower your buttocks into a squat position. Quickly place your hands on the floor and jump up on your legs to get into a plank position. Return to the squat position with the legs and return to the standing position. (If the jump is too difficult, modify the exercise by taking a step back). Do as many reps as possible while maintaining correct form, up to 15 reps.
3. Knees raised sideways
Start standing. Bring the left knee towards the chest and the palm of the right hand towards the ear in a running position. Quickly switch arms and legs (like jogging), and take a step to the left. Continue alternating for three steps; It’s a serie. Go back in the opposite direction for three steps; this is the second series. Do 12 sets in total, six on each side.