The ultimate ab workout doesn’t need to take you hours and hours. And it doesn’t need to involve zounds and zounds of situps and crunches — or heck, any at all.
Truth is, your road to the core strength that your body needs (and the six-pack abs you want) doesn’t need to be as time-consuming as you think. All you need is 15 minutes a day (and in some cases, less).
The key to training your abs is understanding that even when you’re not training them, they’re supposed to be working. Six-pack abs aren’t just a vanity play; your abs and core are responsible for giving you posture throughout your day. That goes for the moments your sitting and standing in meetings, and the moments when you’re in the gym training other bodyparts too. Your core should be firing when you’re sitting in your chair, and it should also be highly active in keeping your torso organized when you’re doing, say, shoulder presses, or even biceps curls.
Prepping your core to do those things doesn’t require hours of time. Focus on a smart 15-minute routine that hits a variety of ideas.
What Is Your Core?
Don’t just train your abs, because your abs are only part of the battle. Instead, focus on training your entire core as a unit. That means abs, obliques, spinal extensors, and glute muscles all functioning together. That’s how your core acts in real life, and that’s how you’ll use it in this workout.
The Makeup of Core Training
In order to train your core in a tight window of time, you have to understand what it’s capable of. I break core training into four different buckets. A well-rounded core program hits on all these ideas in some fashion or other. You can do that quickly, though, especially since these ideas often cross over into each other.
Your entire core, including abs, lower back muscles, obliques, and glutes, braces your spine, keeping it tight and structurally sound and immovable. Staying braced prevents you from rounding your lower back, and it also prevents you from overly arching your lower back, too. Think of planks and hollow holds; these moves have your core muscles tightening to brace your spine into a fixed position.
Your core is also responsible for rotating your torso. Turn from side to side while keeping your legs pointed forward; your abs, obliques, lower back and hip muscles drove that motion. Rotation is a key everyday action that we sometimes underestimate. But it’s also worth training. Your core needs to be strong enough to rotate your torso, and to rotate it against a force or weight that might not want to rotate it. Think of woodchops or Russian twists as exercises that teach your core to rotate.
Your core is also responsible for preventing your torso from rotating, a concept known as “anti-rotation.” Try this: Stand straight, keeping your hips and shoulders facing forward. Have a friend push your right shoulder. Resist that push. Your core is what helped you resist that push — and it takes serious strength to resist that push. You build that strength by battling rotation in core exercises. Think of plank reaches, or off-center hollow hold variations as examples of anti-rotary exercises.
Yes, spinal flexion gets a bad wrap, as the root of all back pain. No, it’s not a bad thing. Truth be told, your torso is meant to be capable of spinal flexion, and it’s your abs that drive that motion. Key thing here: Your body must drive be in control of that spinal flexion. Spinal flexion is bad when you intend it. It’s only problematic when it happens because you’re not in control of it. The basic situp is an example of a movement that incorporates spinal flexion.
Your Core Workout
You’ll incorporate the above ideas into this 15-minute core workout, which you can do every day. You can do it as a standalone workout (and you can do it at home or at the gym), or you can tack it onto the end of a strength workout or cardio workout for some extra ab burn.
You won’t count reps in this workout; instead, you’ll focus on moving with precision for time. For the first two exercises, do each move for 45 seconds, then rest 15 seconds. Follow the rep instructions on the final move. Rest one minute between each exercise.
Get your heart rate going and work on bracing your core more than you think with basic mountain climbers. Do 2 sets.
3-Step Core Getup
Hit spinal flexion and more anti-rotation work than you may expect with the 3-step core getup. Do 2 sets per side.
Hollow Rock To Superman Series
A post shared by Ebenezer Samuel (@ebenezersamuel23)
Finish with this hollow rock to Superman countdown series, which has you doing five hollow rock reps, then rolling to do 5 Superman reps. You then roll back for 4 hollow rocks, followed by 4 Supermans, and follow that progression all the way down until you’re doing one hollow rock and one Superman. You wind up hitting both abs and also your lower back muscles and glutes on the Supermans. Each set will take about one minute; rest one minute between each set.
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