Story by Jeff Howard
Photos by Jillian Clark
Summer’s coming and you’re determined to have stronger, leaner abs.
Pretty much every woman and man on the planet is more than a little obsessed with flattening out the region between their chest and pelvis — and it ain’t easy!
I took a poll in my fitness classes asking which area of the body people struggled with most; the number one answer was abs.
First things first: you can’t spot-reduce fat. You can’t grab a part of your abs or your love handles and just get rid of one problem area. You must burn calories to burn fat while you condition your abs.
I reached out to my dear friend Annie Locke, manger of Pure Barre. Annie has been a fitness expert over 30 years and truly has the best abs I have ever seen.
I asked Annie to share the top nine ab and core exercises she loves the most. I showed up at Pure Barre, where she took me through two hours of her favorite exercises. My abs and core are still sore from this experience!
Her knowledge of the body and the core is mesmerizing – as is as her wit and her fitness endurance – so it was hard to narrow down her top nine. The list of exercises below are just some of her favorites core exercises to do at home. Note, these are meant to complement your existing workout.
The combination targets every muscle in your abdominal wall. Do all nine moves, but remember that some are side specific, so you’ll need to repeat them on the other side. Try to do each move for 20 reps three times, then repeat the entire sequence one more time. Also, eating properly and doing your other training three or four times a week is key. We all have that tight core; we just need to strip it away with diet and exercise. As the saying goes, “Your abs are made in the kitchen.” If you’re not eating right, your abs will (or won’t, rather) show it.
All you will need is a mat or towel to lay on, a smaller towel and a hand weight if you have one available.
1. Classic 100s: Lying supine, move both of your feet towards the ceiling. Lift your head and shoulders off of the floor, forming a C curve. With arms by your side, lift off of the floor and start to move your arms up and down. As your arms are moving up and down, keep an eye on your core – try not to let anything move. (Jeff is in the starting position; Annie is in a more advanced position, lowering her legs to where she feels comfortable.) If you have lower back issues leave your head on the floor.
2. Walk Ups: Lying supine, keep your head on the floor with your legs up towards the ceiling. With arms by your side, start to take one step and then another, reaching towards the sky. Repeat. Your glutes should be coming off of the floor with each reach upward.
3. Plank Knee Drop: Start prone on the floor. Place your elbows under your shoulders. Lift your body off the floor into a plank. Drop one knee and then the other towards the floor, repeating one after the other.
4. Four Count Roll-up: Start in a seated position with your legs extended in front of you. Reach your arms toward your feet, then slowly lower your torso to the floor. Counting slowly to four with your hands reaching forward. Once you touch the floor, repeat on the way up. Regression assist yourself on the way up.
5. Side Lying V-Up: Lie on your side with your elbow directly underneath your shoulder. Place your opposite arm in the opposite direction. Integrate your core by bringing your feet up towards the ceiling. Lift your arm and touch your feet, then lower your legs back to the floor.
6. Standing Oblique Crunch: Stand with your legs wide and your feet pointing out, taking one hand to your head while the opposite hand goes behind your leg. Take the hand by your leg and reach slowly towards the floor. Go as low as you feel comfortable. To make it more challenging, add a small weight to the hand that is reaching for the floor.
7. Superman: Start on all fours. Lift one arm forward with the opposite leg moving toward the back. Bring it back to the floor and repeat on the other side. For more of a challenge, take your knees off of the floor in a plank position, lifting the opposite arm from the floor and lowering the opposite leg. Repeat on the other side.
8. V-Sit Twist: Grab your towel and sit on the floor with your knees bent. Facing forward with your arms extended, lean back, twist your side and lower your arm. Then, twist forward in the same direction again. To progress this, engage your core and lift your legs.
9. Wall Sit-ups: Start lying down with your feet on the wall, your knees at a 90° angle and your hands overhead. Do a classic sit-up, lifting your torso off of the floor and touching the wall. To progress this, keep your feet at the base of the wall. VT
10. Plank with Transverse: Start on all fours with a towel in front of you. With one hand, secure the towel to the floor as the other hand takes hold of it. Pull the towel up towards your side, then bring it back to the floor. Repeat. To progress this, take your knees off the floor into a plank position. (Photo 013a,013b)
* Before you start any diet or exercise program, always consult with your doctor.