In the age of functional training, targeted abdominal work like crunches may seem passé. But devoting a few short sessions each week to your core can augment the abs-fortifying benefits you are getting from your total-body boot camps and balance training, getting you closer to that summer six-pack with every rep. “Think of your core—the front, back, sides, top, and bottom of your torso, not just your abdominals—as the foundation of a house,” explains Tracie Smith-Beyak, a master trainer, presenter, author, and member of 2019/2020 can fit pro National Fitness Advisory Panel. “If the foundation is weak, then the structure of the house is vulnerable and can collapse.” Combining core training, like the workout included here, with mobility and flexibility training into all of your workouts can decrease your risk of injury and increase your athletic performance, she notes. These five exercises target the four muscles that make up the abdominals—the rectus abdominis, the transverse abdominis, and the internal and external obliques—by moving you through a wide range of motions and using resistance to challenge your stability and strength. Perform this series two to three times each week on non-consecutive days following your cardio workout, and you’ll notice results in about a month.
Go through the exercises in order three times without rest. During your first round, do the exercises for 30 seconds each; in the second round, increase the time to 45 seconds, and in the third round you’ll burn out your core by completing each move for a full minute.
Lie faceup on the floor. Hold a kettlebell in your hands with your arms behind your head, ears beside your elbows. Flex from your hips to lift your torso off the ground, keeping your arms straight; at the same time, raise your feet from the ground to bring your body into a V. Pause for one count, then slowly lower.
MAKE IT HARDER: Don’t allow your shoulders or feet to touch the ground in-between reps.
MAKE IT EASIER: Omit the kettlebell.
Kettlebell Russian Twist
Sit tall on the floor with your knees bent, holding the kettlebell in front of your chest. Lift your feet from the ground and lean back slightly, balancing on your tailbone to create a V with your thighs and core. Keep your elbows close to your body as your twist through your waist to the right. Hold for one second and then twist to the left. Repeat, moving fluidly and with control.
MAKE IT HARDER: Extend your arms in front of your chest.
MAKE IT EASIER: Place your feet flat on the ground.
Lie on your back and lift your legs, forming a 90-degree angle at your hips and knees. Cradle the back of your head and upper neck with your hands. Lift your right shoulder from the ground, twisting through your waist to direct your right elbow toward your left knee; simultaneously extend your right leg. Repeat, alternating sides.
MAKE IT HARDER: Move slower and drop your extended leg a few inches above the ground.
MAKE IT EASIER: Extend your leg at a 45-degree angle.
Lie on your back with your arms by your sides, palms facing down. Lift your heels about six inches off the floor. Make small, rapid, up and down scissor-like motions with your legs. Focus on initiating the motion from your midsection and keeping your abs contracted throughout the exercise.
MAKE IT HARDER:
Lift your shoulders in a slight crunch and hold throughout your set.
MAKE IT EASIER:
Tap your heels to the ground.
Begin face down on the floor. Prop your body up onto your toes and forearms with your elbows under your shoulders, forming a straight line from your head to your heels. Hold this position, keeping your hips and shoulders stable and your back unrounded.
MAKE IT HARDER: Lift one foot from the ground; switch halfway through the set.
MAKE IT EASIER: Drop your knees to the floor or space your feet wider.
PHOTOS BY CHRIS V. LINTON (@CHRISVLINTON)