Today we’re going to go over some core abdominal exercises you can do from home. Like the previous articles, we’re going to focus on bodyweight exercises that don’t need any equipment. Ab exercises are hard but easy to master. Like anything else in the gym, it takes practice and consistent intensity to get better at it. I recommend training abs at least 2 or 3 times a week. Depending on the intensity/adding weights to exercise, you need to give your abs time to recover before training them again, just as you would with any other muscle.
Disclaimer: doing ab exercises will not give you abs (shocker), abs are made in the kitchen! Ab workouts build the abs, diet reveals them!
Before you begin on your new work-from-home exercise regimen, take these four pieces of advice to heart in order to make sure you’re getting the most out of your workout.
1. Form matters more than anything else. If you’re not performing the exercise well, there’s an increased risk of injury. For example, while doing bodyweight exercises like dips, push-ups, and pike push-ups, controlling the movement is very important. It’s not a priority to go as fast as possible. Remember, quality over quantity.
2. It’s ok to be a beginner. We all have to start somewhere. Don’t get discouraged if you can’t make it to 30 seconds on certain exercises, 20 is just fine. Now you have something to work towards.
3. Exercising is a never-ending process. There is no end, which means you will have a lifetime of accomplishments ahead of you.
4. Consistency is key. As long as you keep consistent, you will see progress. Not feeling sore does NOT mean you didn’t have a good workout. Don’t let it fool you.
The plank is one of the most tried and true core exercises around. To complete this exercise, you’ll need to get on the floor. That will be the case for most of these core exercises. Get into a push-up position, but with your elbows on the ground. Make sure to keep your back straight and your core tight. It’s important to activate your abs throughout to ensure your back is not arching and to ensure that you’re getting the best activation. It would be best if you held it for as long as you can; start with 30 seconds and build up as you improve.
This is a variation on the traditional plank. Rather than the traditional push-up position, this variation requires you to pull one of your knees up close to your elbow as you hold the plank. This will also help target the obliques, so it’s a good plank to add to your core regimen. Like with the above plank, you can do this for time or reps.
The side plank is a great variation of the traditional plank that’s a little more accessible than the spider variation. This version will really activate your obliques—if it’s your first time doing it, you’ll be burning tomorrow. This variation also requires a bit of balance, so you may have to work your way up to really extended holds. To complete this exercise, get in your traditional plank position, but then lean your weight onto one of your arms with your chest perpendicular to the floor. You can keep your other arm raised into the air to aid with balance. Do it as long as you can (you’ll figure out a good length you’re comfortable with), and then switch to the other side and repeat.
Now let’s get into some of the more dynamic exercises. You should get into a push-up position (on your hands this time, not your elbows), and then alternate pulling your knees up to your chest. Make sure you keep your hips down and your core activated throughout. You want to be pulling your legs up with your core, not just leg strength. Repeat the exercise in rhythm for a minute. Once you get better at the exercise, you can add tempo to make it harder.
The V-Up is a slightly more advanced core exercise, and it really requires good form to avoid injury. To begin, lie down on your back facing the ceiling with your arms extended on the ground behind your head. Then, while keeping your core tight, raise your upper body off the ground while simultaneously lifting your straightened legs into the air. You’ll form a V-shape (hence the name), then slowly return to fully horizontal. Make sure to keep your back and legs straight throughout the exercise; it’ll be easier if you focus on activating your core throughout the entire rep. You can progress overtime by further straightening your legs.
Bicycle crunches are a great variation of the traditional crunch, but the traditional crunch can be really strenuous on your back & neck. If your neck has ever hurt from crunches, then consider the bicycle crunch instead. For this, lie face up with your legs extended and your hands curled behind your head. Then, pull one of your knees up to your chest with the other leg extended (and held off the ground). Lift your upper body slightly off the ground, leaning towards the knee. Alternate and repeat.
Another dynamic exercise, the Russian Twist is a great addition to your core regimen. To begin, get into the position that you would conclude a crunch in—knees bent with your feet off the ground (or gently on the ground if you’re having trouble with the balance) and your upper body tensed up off the ground. Maintain your V shape with your core tightened, and then use your abs to twist to the right, then the left, etc.
Toe touches are a great crunch variation for the lower abs. To complete this exercise, lie on your back and lift your legs and upper body off of the ground, with arms and legs outstretched. Lift your upper back off the ground and pull your arms toward your toes, while lifting your legs up towards the ceiling. Your legs should be static and straight up while moving your upper body and arms towards and from the toes.
Heel touches are a great exercise for activating your obliques. To perform this exercise, lie down with your knees bent and feet on the ground. Your arms should be at your side. With your shoulders lifted slightly off the ground, use your abs to rotate your right hand down towards your right foot and then back up. Alternate to your left hand and repeat.
This is another great exercise for your lower abs and for stretching your hip flexors. It’s also pretty simple, so this is a great one to incorporate into your routine if you’re just beginning to work your core. To complete, lie on your back with your legs extended and hands at your side (or you can put your hands underneath your lower back). Slowly lift your legs up towards the ceiling, maintaining a straight leg throughout with your thighs tight together. Go until you can’t go any higher (without bending your legs) and then slowly return. How high you can go will be determined by your hip flexibility, so the more you do this exercise, the easier it will become. Try to keep the tension in the abs by making sure to never touch the ground with your feet!
This is a static variation of the above leg raises. Follow the above instructions, but rather than repeating the motion, you should keep your legs in their lifted position with your core engaged. Hold for as long as you can and then repeat.
Windshield wipers are a little more complicated than the leg raises, but are foundationally pretty similar. To begin, lie on your back with your arms laid out diagonally towards your hips (for support). Lift your legs into the air; depending on your flexibility level, you can do it with either straight legs or bent at the knee. Engaging your abs, rotate your hips to one side, bringing your legs over. Alternate to the other side and repeat. Your feet should not touch the ground.
If the side plank is just too easy, then you can make it more dynamic by doing a side plank crunch. To begin, get in your side plank position (explained above) with your right hand behind your head and the elbow bent. Then pull your right knee up towards your right elbow until they connect and return to the initial position. Make sure you’re engaging your core throughout the motion. Do a full set on one side, then switch to the other side, then rest.
For this exercise, begin by laying down on your back with your legs extended up to a 45 degree angle off the ground. You should also lift your head, neck and shoulders slightly off the ground. With your core engaged, lower one of your legs below the other. Make sure to keep your toes pointed and legs totally straight. Then, begin to bring the lowered leg back up to its starting position while simultaneously lowering the other leg. Then just continue to repeat this alternation. Your toes never touch the ground. Try to increase the tempo to the exercise to make it harder and more dynamic!