The days of trying to get rock-hard abs are over. Now, the best exercise goal is to feel strong overall, and improving your core strength is important for more than just bragging rights or looks.
It’s easier to get through our days when we have a strong core. “It’s so important to train and develop your core. Our core gives our bodies support, which leads to better posture, less chance of getting hurt, and better balance and stability. It’s also a great way to avoid back pain, and it helps us exercise better,” says Tatiana Lampa, NASM, owner of Training with T and a personal trainer.
Most of the things you do every day, like carrying groceries, reaching for something on the top shelf, tying your shoes, and doing housework or gardening, involve your core. This means that the stronger your core muscles are, the better you’ll be able to move through the day. On the other hand, a weak core can lead to problems that you might think are just part of life, like pain in your neck, shoulders, or back, bad posture or balance, and getting hurt more often than you think is typical.
When you think about how our core is made up of muscles in the middle, back, spine, and pelvic floor, it makes sense that this central part of the body is so important to how the rest of the body feels and works.
Most people don’t like doing core exercises but don’t try to rush through them to be done with them faster. When it comes to core workouts, slow is always best. Keep these things in mind as you do crunches, pushups, and more:
Do each move slowly and carefully. This lets you focus on the right form, makes sure that all your hard work pays off to the fullest, and makes you less likely to change something.
Every time you move, take a breath. Gail Barranda Rivas, a personal trainer, fitness teacher, and functional strength coach in New York City, says, “This works your core, lengthens your spine, and helps you become more aware of your core strength as a whole. This is similar to what you try to do in yoga or Pilates.” Take a big breath in and slowly blow out the air through your mouth.
Fitness experts in the Good Housekeeping Institute Wellness Lab worked with top trainers and professional players to find the best ab routines to add to your fitness routine. Whether you want to work out your abs at home or at the gym, these moves have something for everyone and every workout setting.
Try this structure for a great routine you can do at home. Just remember to talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise practice:
10-Minute Ab Workout For Women
- Choose three of the moves from the list below.
- Do the move for 30 seconds, then stop for 15 seconds.
- For one full set, you need to do each move four times through.
- Between each set, you should rest for one minute before moving on to the next action.
1. Crunch & Reach For Tabletop
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How to: Lie flat on your back and bend both knees 90 degrees above you. Do a crunch and reach your arms past your knees and toward your legs. As you lower yourself out of the crunch, reach your arms over your head and stretch your legs out at an angle away from you. Bring your legs back to 90 degrees and crunch at the same time to get back to where you started.
Tips from an expert: Personal trainer Taylor Wittick adds an upper extension to the standard crunch to make it more challenging. You can take this move to the next level by holding a light dumbbell in both hands as you do it.
2. Heel Touches Crunch
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How to: Put your hands behind your head while lying flat on your back. Make a 90-degree angle with your knees by bending them and bringing them up, and then lift them into a crunch. Try to touch your feet to the ground while holding the standing crunch and keeping your legs at a 90-degree angle. Then, as you let your breath out, lift your legs back up to the tabletop position. Once you know how to do this move right, you might want to add ankle weights to make it harder.
Wittick says that most reverse crunches involve rocking your legs up to your chest. However, he says that this movement should stop before the rocking action so that you can focus on working your lower abs. She tells you not to arch your back and to only bend your legs as far as your core can handle.
3. Squeeze & Stretch
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How to: Start by lying on your back with your arms stretched out over your head and your knees bent so your feet are flat on the floor. Use your arms as a tool to bring them up as you crunch your core and lift your head while pulling your shoulder blades off the floor. At the top of the crunch, reach your arms between your knees for a pulse, then slowly lower back down and bring your arms back up.
Expert advice: Keep your neck long and don’t let it collapse when you raise your head. This is important for a strong core and to keep the neck and upper body from getting tense.
4. Crunch Bicycle
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How to: Lie flat on the floor with your legs straight in front of you and your lower back pressed into the floor. Put your hands behind your head and pull your shoulder blades off the ground. Pull your right knee into your chest while bringing your left arm to meet your right knee. Switch sides and do the same thing with the right arm touching the left knee on the other side. During the move, the straight leg should be a few inches off the ground.
Tips from an expert: Fitting Room’s Pierre Armand swears by this move, which is simple in idea but works all the abs when done right. Make sure you don’t squeeze your neck during the move. Instead, keep your neck long and raised, as if you were holding an apple just below your chin.
5. Walkouts From A Forearm Plank
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How to: Put your hands on the floor with your elbows under your shoulders and your arms about shoulder-width apart and parallel to your body. Walk a few inches with your right foot, and then a few inches with your left foot. When moving your feet out and back, keep your core stable and don’t move your hips.
Expert tips: Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott, personal trainers and co-founders of Tone It Up, love this plank variation that needs more core support. At the beginning of the move, they say to press your toes into the floor and squeeze your hips. Keep using your hips and abs throughout the whole movement.
6. One-Leg Plank
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How to: Put yourself in flat position. Press your toes into the floor and squeeze your buttocks. From here, lift your right foot up a few inches and hold for 5–10 seconds. Put your right foot down, then put your left foot down.
Tips from the pros: You can do this plank version with just your body weight or add a resistance band to your legs just above your knees for an extra challenge. For a simpler change, get into the wrist plank pose before you lift your leg.
7. Climbers On A Mountain
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How to: Start in a plank position with your arms straight and your hands right under your shoulders. Your body should be in one long line, with your toes down and your hips tight. Bring each knee into your chest in turns. To make it harder, cross your right knee over to touch your left arm on the other side. Do the same thing on the other side.
Tips from the pros: This move will make you feel the burn. Go slow and steady, and Scott says that if you want to make it even harder, put gliders under your feet.
8. Crunchy Starfish
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How to: Start by spreading your arms and legs out in a starfish shape on the ground. Using your core muscles, pull your body in tight and straight and hug your knees into a ball shape. Then slowly go back down and do it again.
Dawn is known for this version of the V-up where you fully extend your arms and legs at the bottom to work every inch of your abs. Try to keep your feet off the ground between sets for an extra challenge.
9. Straight-Leg Jackknife With Alternating Legs
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How to: Stretch your arms and legs out flat on the floor. Take a big breath in, and as you let it out, tighten your abs and raise your right leg to the sky. At the same time, reach your left arm across your body to touch your right foot. Slowly go back down, and then do the same thing on the other side so that your other hand touches your other foot.
Expert tips: Doing this move on each side in a different order works a number of core supporting muscles, including the obliques. Beginners may not be able to get very high off the ground, and that’s okay. As you get better, try to lift your shoulder blades completely off the ground during the reach part of this exercise.
10. Russian Twist
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How to: Bend your knees and lift your chest as you sit. Lower your back until you have to use your core muscles to keep your back straight. You can use both hands to hold a weight or just put your hands together. Move your hands or the weight with you as you twist from side to side. Heels can be flat on the ground or a few inches off the ground.
This basic ab exercise works the obliques. The key to doing the Russian twist is to lower your back until you feel your core engage. You can do this without a weight or add a dumbbell or medicine ball for more pressure.
11. Swiss Ball Plank
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How to: Hold a plank pose by putting your arms on the Swiss ball and your toes on the ground. Move the Swiss ball carefully forward and back, bringing your plank out and then back in. Try to keep your hips still and even while holding your core.
Track and field Olympian and Team USA member Colleen Quigley says that the Swiss ball makes things less stable, so you have to fight for your balance all the time when you’re on it. Quigley says that you shouldn’t let your hips drop and that you shouldn’t stick your butt up. Think of a straight line from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head.
12. Ways to Change the Side Plank
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How to: Start in a side plank position with your body in one long plane. Lift your top leg, then move it up and down about ten times, touching your bottom foot each time before moving it again.
Start in a side plank position with your body in one long plane. Dip your hips down a few inches, and then slowly and steadily bring them back up.
Expert tips: Side planks work the obliques well, but they can be boring. Quigley uses these two different ways to keep things interesting and pass the time.
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How to: Start in a strong plank position with your hands stacked under your shoulders, your hips squeezed, and your belly button pulled into your spine. From there, shift your weight to one side and let your hips open as you turn your body. As the chair turns, so will your feet. Once you’ve moved your body 90 degrees and are in a side plank, move your weight again and go back to a regular plank. Switch sides after every rep.
Expert tips: Ally McKinney, a certified personal trainer, loves to add spin to plank exercises so that she can work all of the muscles in your core. Since this is a rotating movement, our fitness experts stress that you shouldn’t lose your plank stance as you switch sides.
14. Hollow Hold
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How to: Start by lying on the ground on your back. Your feet should be off the ground and your knees should be bent. The arms should be stretched up to the sky. Keep your low back flat on the ground and slowly extend your legs as far as you can without your low back rising off the ground. If you can fully extend your legs and keep them off the ground, you can slowly move your arms back up into an overhead position. In a beginning performance, this move is often held for 20–30 seconds at a time.
McKinney says that we need to be in a “hollow” pose for almost every workout move. “By pressing and keeping your low back pushed into the ground, we strengthen our hips and teach our bodies to stay in a neutral position even when we’re not thinking about it,” she says. When your low back starts to lift off the ground, you are in the hollow hold position.
15. Pilates 100
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How to: Lay on your back and bend your knees 90 degrees. You should point your toes and squeeze your heels together. Then, straighten your legs out diagonally so they are about 65 degrees from the floor. Lift your head, neck, and shoulders off the mat and put your arms right by your sides. You should stay in this position for the whole practice. Keep your head up and your shoulders open. Start by pumping your arms up and down by your sides 10 times, breathing in through your nose for 5 counts and out through your mouth for 5 counts. This is one set. You will do this for a total of 10 sets, or 100 times.
Expert advice: Once you’ve learned the hollow body move, you’re ready to step it up and try the Pilates 100. This is a great addition to any workout plan. You can do it after a running workout or after a workout that focuses on your abs. Beginners can keep their legs bent at a 90-degree angle for the whole movement if extending their legs is too hard. As they get stronger, they can move on to the next level.
Workouts are great to incorporate into your daily lives. Not only do they tone your body, but they also keep you fit internally. If your prime motive to workout is to lose weight, you can also try TropiSlim along with daily workouts. This has helped many people across the globe to shed those extra pounds.