Who wouldn’t want to have toned and well defined abdominal muscles? Developing your core muscles would not only help you get the abs of your dreams but could also lead to better overall stability and balance. A strong core would make it easier for you to engage in all kinds of exercises and most physical activities. On top of that, it could contribute to improving your posture. Weak core muscles not only affect your appearance but could also make you prone to muscle injuries and pain in the lower back.
If you find the thought of an abdominal workout daunting, don’t be discouraged. The road to a stronger core may seem impossible at first, but just a few minutes a day can help you get started on a regular workout routine. Start at a level of training suited for beginners, then gradually increase your reps or move on to more advanced exercises.
To get started on your core workout regimen, pick three to five ab exercises that you could do two to three times a week. Choose the ones that are suited to your level of training. A variety of exercises can target different parts of your abdominal muscles. Once you’ve chosen the exercises you want to include in your routine, you could get started with your new regimen. Try to do 10 to 15 reps per set, with two to three sets per type of exercise. For the ones where you need to hold a pose, stay in that position for around 20 seconds to a minute.
If you are not sure what exercises would help you, here are ten abdominal workouts grouped according to your level of training.
1. Crunch Kicks
Lie flat on your back while keeping your arms at your sides. Draw your knees in toward your chest, making sure that your lower back is pinned to the ground. It would help to pull your belly in while doing so. Push your feet straight out in front of you at an angle, while keeping your back flat on the floor. Repeat this movement for your chosen number of times without letting your feet touch the ground.
If you find your back arching too much, try modifying this exercise by doing the reverse crunch. After you draw your knees in toward your chest, lower your heels to the floor while keeping your knees bent instead of pushing your feet straight out. Do this for your desired number of reps.
2. Reverse Plank
Start by sitting on a mat and straightening your legs before you. Lay your hands on the mat behind you, with your fingers facing forward. Once you are in position, lift your hips upward while squeezing your buttocks. Hold the position for as long as you choose. You may feel a burning sensation in your triceps. Make sure you keep your elbows straight and your neck in a neutral position.
You can modify this exercise by doing a reverse table top instead. This will require you to carry less of your body weight. To do this exercise, adjust the reverse plank so that you bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor instead of holding your legs straight out.
1. Sit Ups with a Twist
Lay flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor as you would with a regular sit up. Inhale as you ready yourself, then exhale as you sit up. Raise your left elbow to your right knee, then lower yourself back to the mat while keeping your core in control. Repeat these movements on the other side, and finish your set with your desired number of reps.
If you find it too difficult to get your torso all the way up, modify the exercise by doing sit up negatives. Do this by grabbing the backs of your legs, then using your arms to pull your body up. Lower yourself back down as slowly as you could manage while loosening your grip. When you’ve gotten the hang of doing sit up negatives, you could revert to doing sit ups with a twist.
2. Plank Hops
Put yourself in a plank position while holding your feet together. Hop your feet forward and to the right, bending your knees. Try to get them as far to the right as you can. Aim to land outside of your right elbow. Hop back to your starting position, then repeat on the left side. Do these movements until you finish your reps.
If you are having a hard time hopping as far as suggested, start by reaching just as far as you can go. Regularly doing this exercise will help you gradually be able to reach farther.
3. Climber Taps
Get into a plank position, making sure your hands are directly below your shoulders and your back is flat. Pull your left foot up while reaching down with your right hand until they touch. Repeat this on the other side and continue for your chosen number of reps.
If you are new to doing planks, start by training yourself to hold a regular plank. This can help improve your stamina and strength, and prepare you for doing climber taps. Or you could move on to mountain climbers first before progressing to climber taps. To do this, get yourself in a plank position, then pull your right leg in toward your right elbow as far as you can. Do this on your other side, then repeat as desired. Mountain climbers can help you develop your coordination.
4. Modified Boat Pose
Sit on your mat with your back held straight while keeping your knees bent at a 90 degree angle and your feet flat on the ground. Hold your arms out in front of you palms up. Let your body recline slightly as you lift your feet off the floor until your shins are parallel to the ground. Hold for as long as you desire. Once you have mastered this exercise, try straightening out your knees to increase the intensity.
For beginners, just lift your heels up with your toes still touching the floor for support instead of lifting your feet all the way up. Keep your torso slightly reclined to form a V shape.
5. Star Crunches
Start out by lying down in a star position with your arms spread above your head and your legs wide apart. Inhale as you get yourself ready, then exhale as you sit up, drawing your heels in toward your buttocks. Grab your shins before lowering yourself back down to your original position. Repeat until you have finished your set.
You can start with a modified v-sit if you are experiencing difficulty with star crunches. Lay flat on your back with your knees up and feet flat on the ground while keeping your arms at your sides. Draw your knees up toward your chest as you sit up and reach for your toes. Slowly lower yourself back into your starting position.
1. Star Plank
Start by lying on your right side with one foot on top of the other. Prop your body up with your right arm with your right wrist directly below your right shoulder. Hold your shoulders, hips, and ankles aligned in a straight line. Once your body is steady, raise both your left arm and left leg upwards. Hold this position for your desired time before switching to your other side.
If you are not yet familiar with this position, allow yourself to get used to it first by practicing the standard side plank. To do this, get into the starting position but do not raise your arm or leg. If you are still having difficulty balancing yourself in the standard side plank position, hold your top leg behind you with the foot flat on the ground for extra support.
2. Hollow Body Descents
Get into your starting position by lying flat on your back with your arms stretched above your head and legs held straight together. Pull your abdominal muscles in while pinning your lower back to the ground. Raise your legs up about a foot above the floor. Keeping your feet raised, sit up until your torso is at approximately a 135 degree angle. Hold the position for a second or two before slowly lowering your torso down with as much control as you could achieve. Repeat until you finish your desired reps.
If you are unable to do these moves, train yourself first by doing regular hollow body holds. Start out in the same position with arms above your head and legs straight. While bracing your torso, lift your shoulders just a few inches off the floor while keeping your lower back on the mat. Follow by lifting your legs as well, then hold the position. If this is still a little too hard for you, allow yourself to draw one knee in towards your chest.
3. Turkish Get Up
This advanced exercise is a little more complicated, requiring more steps. Get into position by lying on your back with your legs slightly apart. Raise your right knee, planting your right foot on the ground, and keeping your left leg down. If you wish to use a weight, make sure you have a dumbbell or kettlebell ready outside your right shoulder. Grab onto the weight with your right hand and lift it above you. While keeping your arm up, plant your left hand on the ground next to you to give you support. First, roll yourself up onto your left elbow and then all the way to your hand as you prop yourself up into a sitting position. Using your right foot as additional support, lift your hips up off the ground. Pull your left leg back into a lunge, then push yourself up into a standing position. Get yourself back on the ground by reversing the steps.
A weight is not necessary for this exercise, but if you do choose to use one, make sure to keep your eyes trained on it as you go through the exercise. Do not rush through the steps, and keep your movements controlled. Because this exercise requires harder work, cut your usual number of reps in half when doing this.
If you are just starting out with this exercise, omit the weight and take your time mastering every step. Even without a dumbbell or kettlebell, you would already be working out your core muscles.
While there are a number of other core exercises out there, these ten are a good place to start to establish your ab workout regimen. Just choose the best ones for you and make sure you switch it up a bit when things get too easy. You can then be on your way to firmer abs and a stronger core.