Abs are much more than glamour muscles. Almost everything you do on a daily basis involves your core- from putting on your shoes in
the morning, to housework. Because your core is so important for everyday tasks, as well as balance and posture, it’s important to strengthen and maintain it.
If this isn’t your first Ab routine, and you aren’t seeing washboard results- don’t be discouraged! Just because you can’t see the muscles doesn’t mean they aren’t there. For women in particular, it can be extremely difficult to create defined abdominal muscles because of our naturally higher body fat percentage (8-15% body fat on athletic women, compared to men at 5-10%). Women tend to have more body fat due to hormones, breasts, and sexual organs. A certain amount of fat is also required for ovulation.
So if you’re a woman and want a more defined stomach, but already have strong core muscles, my best advice is to lose a little weight- in a healthy manner of course. Bring down your body fat percentage, and your muscles will start to pop. Just be aware that if you become too lean, your breast size will shrink (because breasts are mostly made up of fatty tissue) and you might stop ovulating until you gain back the weight.
That being said, this is a great abdominal workout for anyone trying to get defined abs, or simply trying to strengthen his or her core. A key to core strengthening is focusing on engaging your muscles. Don’t rush through any of these movements!
What it works: Sit-ups work a larger range of muscles than traditional crunches. This focuses on abdominal endurance and strengthens abdominal muscles.
Start by laying flat on your back with your legs straight, and place your hands behind your head, or at your ears. As you begin to lift your shoulders off the floor, focus on keeping your elbows back, and your abs tight. Try to keep your back as straight as possible as you come up to a 90-degree angle with your legs. Keeping your back straight, return to laying position.
What it works: Abdominals and Obliques
Start in the same position as the flat sit-ups. As you lift your torso off the ground pull in your right leg, and twist your upper body so your left elbow meets your knee. Again, make sure to focus on keeping your elbows back, making a full sideways twist motion, and tightening your abs the whole time.
Return to original starting position, and then twist to the other side. Lifting your left leg, and twisting your body so your right elbow meets your knee.
Continue alternating sides.
Planks, Dips and Reaches
What it works: Core conditioning, Glutes, Hamstrings, Supports proper posture and balance, Obliques, Back muscles, Abdominals, Transversus abdominals, Rectus abdominis, Gluteus medius, Adductor muscles in inner thigh
This is a pretty killer combo. I stay in plank throughout this entire exercise without touching down, but if that’s too hard feel free to take breaks in-between moves.
1. Start in a standard plank position. Bend your elbows and use them to support the majority of your weight instead of using your hands. Be up on your toes, suck your stomach into your spine and try to keep your body completely flat. No butts in the air! HOLD FOR 20-30 SECONDS
2. Twist your body to one side. Hold your body up on one elbow, and one foot. If this is too tricky, try staggering your feet to create a larger base support. HOLD FOR 20-30 SECONDS
3. It’s twisting time! Using your free arm, reach under your stomach. Twist your body toward the floor as your reach, and then return to side plank. REPEAT 10X EACH SIDE
4. To really engage the oblique muscles, I also incorporate dips. Starting again from the side plank, place your free hand on your hip. Dip your hip to the ground, but don’t touch or rest on the ground. Engaging your core, bring your hips back up to a flat side-ways plank. REPEAT 10X EACH SIDE
5. Return back to a two-elbowed, two-legged traditional plank, and HOLD FOR ANOTHER 20-30 SECONDS.
Loaded Russian Twists
What it works: Abdominals, lower back
If you’re new to ab workouts, start with a 5-pound weight or medicine ball. You can also choose to do this workout with no added weight at all.
Sitting on the ground with your knees bent, lift your feet off the ground. Balance on your bum, and focus on engaging your core. Slowly rotate your body, and your weight or medicine ball to one side, touching the weight to the ground, and then returning to center. Rotate between both sides.
Inverted Crunches with Ball
What it works: Rectus Abdominis, Obliques, Major abdominal muscles, Shoulders, Chest, Scapular stabilizers
Find the right workout ball. It should be fairly firm, and a proper size that allows you to be in a flat plank when placed under your feet or knees.
Place your ball at, or slightly below your knees in a plank position. (I find rolling over the top of the ball from a standing position the easiest way to get into this position).
While focusing on engaging your abdominals, pull the ball under your body with your legs. The ball will roll down to your shins when you do this. Hold the position for a second or two, and then slowly roll back to a plank position.
Want to incorporate your arms? Do a push-up in-between the inverted crunches while in the plank position to get a full-body workout!
I enjoyed working out with you! For best results repeat this workout three times a week (think Monday, Wednesday, Friday). Good luck and keep up the hard work!