Are you sick of hiding your belly under baggy tops? Do you plead guilty to buying pants a size too big so your stomach won't spill over the waistband? There's so much to love about a strong midsection — most importantly, it's essential for a healthy body.
Fact: strengthening the core helps improve posture, prevent everyday injury, and combat chronic back pain, which is all too common if you sit at a desk all day.
This is exactly why NO WORKOUT with R. Edward Williams (a.k.a. Rod-Dog), BS, CSCS, and trainer at OOHRAH FITNESS, is complete without a dedicated section of core work. During a recent session with Rod-Dog, he tortured treated me to the following bodyweight circuit, which he tacked on after an already-intense section of leg and shoulder work. It was tough and I sweated like a crazy person, but damn if I didn't feel every muscle in my core working. Rod-Dog also added that these are some of the best exercises for developing a long and lean midsection.
Contrary to what many people believe, doing thousands of sit-ups or crunches all day, every day, will not get you closer to achieving those washboard abs.
Rod-Dog recommends adding this circuit toward the end of any — and all — of your workouts since the body will be warmed up and ready for the challenge. Keep in mind that this isn't a beginner workout. "If you feel your back or hip flexors too much while doing these exercises, it's an indication that your abs aren't strong enough to perform them," he said. In that scenario, you can always reduce the amount of reps, modify the moves, or opt for a more beginner-friendly workout.
The workout: Run through the five-move circuit for a total of three times. Do your best to minimize breaks between each move.
Double Leg Lifts
• Lay flat on the ground with your legs extended straight up toward the ceiling. Place your hands underneath the back of your head. For added stability, Austin recommends laying your arms out to your side, allowing the palms to grip the floor much like you would in a push-up position.
• Pressing your lower back into the ground, slowly lower both legs down toward the floor, then slowly raise them back up. If this is too difficult, lower them as much as you can, or lower one leg at a time.
• Complete 10 to 15 reps.
• Begin in a side elbow plank on your right side with straight legs and your feet stacked.
• Inhale and lower your pelvis to the floor, so your right hip hovers just off the floor. Exhale and press up through your right waist to lift your pelvis and return to side plank. Pull your right shoulder blade down your back to stabilize your shoulder.
• Repeat for a total of 10 to 15 reps to complete a set, then switch sides.
• Lying on your back, lift your legs and arms up so they are extended toward the ceiling. Lift your upper back off the floor, reaching your hands toward your feet.
• Lower your legs toward the floor while reaching your arms overhead, keeping your shoulders off the mat and your lower back pressed into the ground.
• Repeat the crunch motion to complete one rep.
• Complete 15 reps.
Alternating Two-Point Plank
• Start in a plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and your feet in line with your hips. Lift your left leg off the ground so your heel is even with your pelvis.
• Keeping your torso steady, reach your right arm forward. Really brace through your abs by pulling your navel to your spine. Hold this position for about three seconds.
• Return to plank, then switch sides, lifting your right leg off the ground and reaching your left arm forward. Hold for three seconds and return to plank. This is one rep.
• Complete 8 to 10 reps.
• Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground (pull your abs down to also target your deep abs).
• Put your hands behind your head.
• Bring your knees in toward your chest and lift your shoulder blades off the ground, but be sure not to pull on your neck.
• Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows..
• Switch sides and do the same motion on the other side to complete one rep (and to create the "peddling" motion).
• Do 15 to 25 reps at a quick pace.
Repeat the circuit for a total of three times.