I’ve been on a mission ever since having twins and a c-section to find alternatives to ab exercises that don’t involve neck or lower back discomfort. Due to my pregnancy, I lost a lot of muscle strength and tone in my abdomen and found that many traditional ab exercises can be uncomfortable and ineffective. Yes, we need to work muscles to the point of fatigue to transform them, but the no-pain-no-gain approach was definitely not the path I chose to take. I wanted real results, fast — but without the potential lower back and neck strain.
It turns out there are so many effective ways to strengthen your abdominal wall and core muscles without pain. In fact, even the U.S. Army is phasing out sit-ups from the Army Physical Fitness Test.
My search for the best ab exercises began by looking at Physique 57 movements that engaged my core, but didn’t involve flexion in a way that compromised areas that were already weak. I realized that many of our glute, thigh, and arm moves are not only highly effective for the primary, targeted muscle groups, but they also help strengthen and stabilize the core muscles. I ended up losing 70 pounds, and more importantly, gained my total body strength back in less than a year. The best news? Effectively strengthening your core doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or time consuming. Here are five easy ab exercises you can do anytime, anywhere.
1. Get Strong, Lean, & Stable With Planks
The humble plank is a total bodyweight exercise, and is one of the simplest yet most effective moves you can do for building major core strength. Properly executed, planks not only help sculpt an amazing mid-section, they also work your entire body and boost your cardio capacity.
Your basic plank position (which stems from yoga) is simple, but good form is key to getting the best result.
- Come into a modified push-up with your elbows bent at 90 degrees and both forearms placed firmly on the floor.
- Make sure your elbows line up directly under your shoulders, keep your abdominal and lower back muscles engaged, and look straight down at the floor. Keep your spine in a neutral position.
- Keep your feet together with only the toes touching the floor. Hold this position for 30 to 60 seconds.
2. Strengthen Your Core With The Folded L
Standing glute exercises are a powerful way to not only lift and tone your seat, but they also rely on core engagement for proper alignment and execution. As such, you get a lot of payback for your efforts with these moves. Our method, which includes a full glutes routine, is known for our powerhouse glute exercises! This is really a do-anywhere move. Got ten minutes at your desk during lunch? There’s no better time to pulse and squeeze.
- Face your chair or sturdy piece of furniture and place one forearm over the other. Lean forward and let your head rest on top.
- Walk your feet back so that they’re right underneath your hips. You should look like a capital letter L.
- Soften both knees and then draw the right heel up towards your right glute and press your belly button in towards your spine. This is your starting point.
- Press your leg up and down a few inches for 60 seconds. Repeat on the other leg.
There are many variations to the standing glutes exercise — any Physique 57 workout you choose will feature highly effective versions of this move.
If you want to try this weight-bearing exercise at home (or wherever), not only will you strengthen your core, you’ll also increase bone density and boost your metabolism as you increase muscle tone. Gaining muscle mass helps accelerate your metabolism and thus burn more fat even when you aren’t active!
3. Boost Your Core Power With The Curtsy
The curtsy lunge is a great lower body exercise that strengthens and stabilizes your glutes, hips, inner thighs, and core muscle groups. There’s really nothing better than a curtsy-lunge for strong, sculpted glutes, legs, and core.
- Step your feet into a small V position, big toes 2 to 3 inches apart.
- Incline your chest forward at a 45-degree angle.
- Bend your knees and cross your right foot behind your left shoulder, placing the ball of your foot on the floor. Think of this as a turned-out lunge.
- Now bend both knees deeply. Your right knee should hover a few inches off the floor. Your feet and knees should be slightly turned out. This is your starting position.
- Bend your knees a few inches up and down for 1-2 minutes and repeat on the other leg.
4. Discover The Benefits Of The Quadruped
The quadruped, also called Bird Dog position in yoga, is amazing for stabilizing your core muscle groups and spine. While proper form is always important, this deep ab workout is simple to execute.
- First, kneel on the floor as though you are about to start a crawl. Your knees should be placed firmly under your hips with your hands under your shoulders.
- Engage your abs and pull your navel in towards your spine while you lift your opposite arm and leg up simultaneously. Keep the line of your body straight and elongated.
- Make sure to avoid rotating your legs in your hip sockets. Repeat on the other side and increase your reps as you gain strength. Work to do alternating reps for 60 seconds.
5. Work & Tone Your Waist With The Pretzel
The pretzel is a classic barre move that sculpts the glutes like nobody’s business. This is a fantastic exercise for chiseling your waist and boosting your glutes. Small, isometric moves deliver awesome results when practiced regularly.
- Sitting on the floor, bring your left leg in front of you with the left knee bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Bring the right leg behind you, and bend that knee at a 90-degree angle as well Turning your chest slightly left, lean forward and place one hand on each side of your left knee.
- Draw your navel in towards your spine and lift your right leg off the floor. Point the toes of your right foot and keep them higher than your knee. This is your starting position.
- Lift and lower your right leg a couple of inches off the floor while maintaining the position of your upper body. Aim for 30-60 reps and the repeat on the other leg.
I always encourage my students to “strive but don’t suffer.” I know that amazing transformation is possible without unnecessary pain and strain. You deserve a challenging workout that pushes your limits, but honors where you are right now. So, try a few new moves, keep up with your workout consistently, and you’ll see incredible results in no time.