Some abs exercises can become a way of being or a natural part of how you move or maintain healthy postures. Other abs workouts require specific moves you can do at home; and then there are abs workouts that are best done in the gym where you have access to workout gear and professional guidance.
Everyday Activities That Strengthen & Tone Your Abs
Here are a few ways to incorporate abs strengthening – and core building – into the things you do every day:
- Isometric abs contractions. As long as you’re stuck driving in a car, make your core work a little. Do isometric abs contractions by sitting up straight and pulling your abs all the way into your body – like you want them to touch your spine. Do this without holding your breath. Hold that belly-button-to-the-spine position for a few seconds and release. Continue for about two songs worth of time.
- Side bends before anything. Getting up to get a drink of water? Go to the bathroom? Grab a snack? Do some side bends first. Stand with feet together and raise your arms straight over your head, palms together pointing at the sky. Bend right as far as you comfortably can (keeping your spine in alignment). Concentrate on contracting the muscles at your waist. Then come back to center and repeat on the left. Do this for at least 60 seconds (you’ll enjoy the way it brings your mind-body back to center, too!).
- Make your core a focal point in action. Almost every action we take requires core strength. If our core is weak, other muscles will take over but to their detriment. Whatever you’re doing – from climbing stairs to reaching up to high shelves – make a conscious effort to engage your core and it will pay off.
Surprisingly Easy Abs Workouts For the Home
These abs workouts are easy to build into your everyday routine at home:
This first one is perfect for those of you who work at home and need a little break from the screen from time to time. It can be done without even leaving your desk.
- Sit on the edge of a sturdy chair (you can also use a stair case that has at least four risers). Make sure your spine is elongated – nice and tall – up through the crown of your head.
- Place the heels of your hands on the front edge of the chair, on either side of your thighs, facing forwards, and round the fingers around the edge of the chair.
- Tighten your abs and raise your feet several inches off the floor.
- Push up, using your arms, to lift your bum off the seat and hold this pose for at least 5 seconds, 10 seconds is optimal.
- Release and repeat for a total of 60 seconds.
The Plank Hold
You can even do this one in your office if you don’t mind a few stares from desk mates.
- First, assume an ergonomically correct push-up stance (the plank). Make sure your arms, feet and head/neck are all properly in position so there is no strain on your joints or spine.
- Engage and contract your abs, pulling that belly towards the spine while simultaneously engaging your glutes. Always maintain a conscious effort to keep the body in healthy alignment. Don’t make the mistake of looking up and forward as this puts strain on the neck, upper-spine and shoulders. Keep the spine aligned and eyes on the floor.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds. Work up to 60-seconds.
When that becomes easier, step it up by adding the One Arm Table Switching Plank.
For this, you assume the original plank posture. Then release the left arm and place it along your body with your left hand at your lower-buttock/thigh. At this point, your plank is held solely by the extended right arm. Hold this pose for five seconds. Put the left palm back on the mat in plank pose, and then switch. You can do this until you have done 10 full sets on each side.
Abs Workouts to Bring to the Gym
When you’ve had enough of planking, bending, and twisting – it’s time to take your abs workout to the gym where you gain the added challenge provided by equipment.
Hanging Leg Circles
Go find the nearest pull-up bar and make sure you can hang completely extended without your feet touching.
Now, hang from the bar, legs firmly together, feet dangling and arms extended. Engage your core and draw a big circle up and around with your feet. Your core should be doing the work, preventing your body from swinging back and forth. The circles should be controlled.
Do one clockwise circle, then one counterclockwise circle – for one rep. Complete 8 to 10 reps.
Cable Obliques Crunches
Many gym newbies (and some seasoned veterans) are intimidated by the cable. Don’t be; it’s a wonderful tool and this is a great way to get acquainted. For this exercise, the carriage should be close to the ground. Stack a medium weight to start – you can always add more over time.
Stand with your right side perpendicular to the machine, feet slightly wider then shoulder-width apart. Take the handle in your right hand. Raise your left arm up behind your head in a typical crunch position.
Now, engage your obliques and bend to the left side, keeping your cable arm completely extended (no elbow bending). This is a standing side crunch, after which you return to standing. Repeat for 10 to 15 repetitions and then switch sides.
These are two simple abdominal exercises you can do on your own in the gym. If you’re really serious about getting your abs and core into shape, we recommend talking to a personal trainer who can show you both general abs exercises as well as highly-targeted versions depending on your personal physical fitness goals.
Proper Form is Priority to Prevent Strain and Injury
It’s key that you perform abs exercises correctly and safely. When done incorrectly, too fast, or without attention to proper form, you can wind up with serious muscle strains and/or debilitating back injuries.
Checking your form with a personal trainer is always a good idea to ensure you’re on the right track.