By Sarah Klein
Nobody loves ab exercises — but chances are you’re probably doing them anyway.
Many of us are plagued by a little extra around the middle, and while ab exercises can’t single-handedly undercover six-pack abs (they’re in there, somewhere), core workouts can improve your posture and balance, ward off low-back pain and build a base for tougher full-body workouts down the road.
You might not love any of the moves below, but incorporating a few new exercises to your ab routine can at least offer a change of pace. And mixing up your workout routine won’t only save you from boredom but can also bring about the results you’re so desperately working toward.
Check out the ab exercises below that you’re probably not doing, then tell us what your favorite core exercise is in the comments.
This simple move works the entire torso, helping you to build stability in the lower back, which improves everything from posture to your ability to perform more complex, demanding exercises. Start on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Without any arching or rounding of the spine, contract your abs, and lift and lengthen the right arm and left leg. Keep both your arm and leg parallel to the floor, roughly in line with your shoulder and hip. You’re not aiming for height here, but length. Hold for a moment and gently lower down to your starting position. Start with 10 reps on each side, maintaining control throughout the entire set.
Stability Ball Tuck
Any move that requires the aid of a stability ball ups the ante, since you’ll be working more muscle groups to stay balanced and in control. Start in a full plank position, with your ankles resting on top of the ball. Using your core, pull your knees toward your chest. Your hips will lift as the ball moves toward your arms. Then roll the ball back to starting position. Repeat for a total of 10.
You’ve probably performed your fair share of bridges, hoping to target your hamstrings and glutes, and you’re certainly not wrong for doing so. But balancing on one leg requires the core muscles to kick in to keep your whole body stable while you lift and lower. Lying on your back with your arms by your sides, plant your right heel on the floor and extend the left leg straight toward the ceiling. Pressing through that right heel, lift the hips until your spine is straight. Then gently lower the hips back to starting position. Try for 12 on each leg.
Stir The Pot
Forget side crunches. Get at those obliques with the deceptively challenging Stir The Pot. Start on your knees with your feet on the floor and your forearms resting on the stability ball. Brace your core and roll the ball to the right and away from you. Contract the abs to pull the ball back around to complete a full circle, like you just stirred a pot of your favorite seasonal stew. Complete five circles in each direction, keeping the spine straight. The larger your circle, the harder it will be. If you need an extra challenge, move up from your knees to your toes.
Recruit additional core stabilizers with this plank variation. While keeping your hips level, bring the right knee as close to the right elbow as possible. Alternate legs for 30 seconds. To make things more challenging, try bringing the knee to the opposite elbow.
Lower-Ab Leg Lift
Work deep down into those lower abs with this Pilates-esque move. With your back flat on the floor, lift your legs straight into the air, squeezing the inner thighs together. Supporting your head gently with your hands (no pulling!), lift your neck. Contract the core to keep your lower back firmly on the ground, then slowly lower your legs until your feet are six to 12 inches from the floor (if your lower back starts to arch up off the floor, you’ll know you’ve lowered those legs too far). Keep your legs straight and pressed together as you slowly lift them back up to starting position. Try for 10.
The Inch Worm taxes your core to keep you balanced but also calls on arm and shoulder muscles to get involved in this on-the-go exercise. Bend at the hips, so that your feet and hands are touching the floor. Walk your hands forward until you’ve reached plank position. Keeping the ab muscles engaged, walk your legs toward your hands. Try to keep those legs as straight as possible (tight hamstrings won’t help) and your back flat. (Bend your knees more or widen your stance if your back is rounding too much.) Try for 10 — or go for 30 to 60 seconds if you’ve got the space.
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