When most people think of “ab exercises,” they imagine doing thousands upon thousands of sit-ups or crunches, until they are blue in the face. While crunches are a worthwhile exercise to help get the tighter abs of your dreams, they can be repetitive and boring. Plus, your “abs” are actually more than just your stomach area.
Abs, or abdominal muscles, most often refer to your mid-section, but they are actually much larger than that. Ab muscles run up the back and stretch down the butt and even down to the front and inner thighs. So they really are a core set of muscles.
So when you hear the term “strengthening your core,” this is what they are referring to – this area of ab muscles that acts as your “core.”
But if you think firming up these muscles takes boring exercise, think again. Here are 10 exercises that will firm up these core ab muscles:
1. This two-in-one abs-and-obliques move comes from David Barton Gym owner David Barton.
Here’s the method: Sit so thighs and upper torso form a V shape, with lower legs crossed and lifted. Hold a 5-pound dumbbell (or medicine ball) between both hands. Swivel left to right and back, bringing ball across body while maintaining the V shape.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps 3–4 times a week.
2. Here’s one from fitness expert expert Jessica Smith that will take inches off your waistline.
a. Lie on your back with your left knee bent, left foot flat on the floor, and right leg extended toward the ceiling. Reach toward the ceiling with your the left arm and keep your right arm down by your side.
b. Without moving your hips or shoulders, open your raised leg to the right and raised arm to the left. Now, concentrating on your abs, return your raised leg and arm to the center. Do 10–12 reps, then switch sides and repeat. This is an easy, do-anywhere exercise.
3. This exercise targets your corset and six-pack. Lie on your back with knees bent to 90 degrees, hands behind head, and abs contracted. Keeping your knees stacked over hips, lift your shoulders and crunch up; inhale and hold for 3-5 seconds.
Exhale and extend legs to 45 degrees; hold for 3-5 seconds while squeezing lower belly. Do 2 sets of 10-15 reps.
4. Here is an advanced, Pilates-inspired move. Lie on your back with knees bent to 90-degree angles and feet lifted. Tighten abs as you inhale, and lift arms up and back over head.
Exhale and swing arms forward, straightening legs so your body forms a V. If needed, put hands on the floor for support.
Roll down slowly, bending knees and bringing arms overhead. Do 15 reps.
5. Here is a killer move that will torch calories as it works your core. Kneel on all fours and tuck your toes under. Keep your back neutral. Draw your belly in toward your spine as you contract your abs and lift both knees about 2 inches off the ground.
Keep your abs tightened and bring your right knee to up to your nose. Then kick right leg straight out behind you, squeezing your butt; keep your lower abs contracted and hips facing the ground to protect your back.
Repeat this 8 times; then switch legs and repeat.
6. These advanced leg crunches are a sure-fire, get-ready-for-swimsuit season move from celebrity trainer Eduardo Dias.
a. Lie on your back with your knees bent and place a 3-pound dumbbell between your feet. Place your hands, palms down, beneath your hips.
b. Concentrating on your lower abs, use them to bring your knees in toward your chest while lifting your hips, head, and shoulders slightly. Then return to the starting position; that’s 1 rep.
Do 15–30 reps 3–4 times a week; you should see results in about 4 weeks.
7. Here is the ultimate belly blaster exercise from Ana Caban, celebrity trainer and fitness expert.
a. Lie on your back with your knees bent in toward your chest. Hold 1 (3-pound) dumbbell with both hands.
b. Extend your left leg to 45 degrees, keeping your right knee bent. Lift your head and shoulders and move the dumbbell to the outside of your right knee, pressing into a crunch with a twist.
c. Pull your left leg in to meet your right leg and reach the weight up toward the ceiling, keeping your shoulders and head elevated off the floor. Now repeat step 2, but this time extend your right leg and keep your left knee bent. That’s 1 rep.
Do 8 reps 4 times per week, and you should see results in 3 weeks.
8. Using a stability ball, lie on your back on the ball with your feet hip-distance apart on the floor and knees bent to 90 degrees. Place your right hand behind your head and your left fingertips on the floor for balance. Brace your core and lift your left foot off the floor. Extend your left leg, foot flexed.
Crunch up, twisting your right shoulder and rib cage toward your left knee while stretching your right leg straight at the same time (keep your foot on the floor). Return to starting position (left leg lifted and right leg bent); that’s 1 rep.
Do 15 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
9. This is a cross-leg crunch.
Lie on your back with your legs straight and your feet on the floor. Keeping your torso still, lift your hips and move them a bit to the right; lower and straighten your legs again.
Bend your left knee and cross it over your right leg, placing your left foot on the floor near the outside of your right knee. Crunch up, then lower back down.
Do 50 reps, then switch sides and repeat.
10. This last exercise is called a plank exercise – it tones your whole core and also sculpts your arms, butt and thighs.
Kneel on a mat on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders. Stretch your legs back one at a time to come into plank position (think of the “up” part of a push-up); engage (tighten) your ab muscles. Your body should be long and straight; don’t let your hips sag or lift your butt too high. Imagine there’s a seat belt tightening around your waist, drawing your lower-ab muscles inward.
Press your hands firmly into the mat, and press strongly back through your heels. Hold for 1–2 minutes (or as long as you can), then drop back to all fours. Do 3 reps.