Abs Aren't Just for Show

When people think of someone fit, the image of a chiseled six-pack usually pops to the forefront. And while it’s awesome to feel confident with a toned tummy in in swimwear, there are so many other benefits to cultivating abdominal strength.

According to Monkey Bar Gymnasium and Power Wheel founder Jon Hinds, creating a strong core helps to stabilize and strengthen your whole body by allowing you to successfully perform a greater range of exercises. This is particularly true in sports like soccer or football, where a strong core helps provide the limb force necessary for quick movements.

A key point to remember when thinking of core exercises is that your abs are just one part––your core also includes the muscles in your pelvis, hips and spine. By incorporating moves that target your upper and lower abs as well as your back and obliques, you improve both balance and posture because your muscles will fatigue less easily and can support proper alignment.

Out of the gym or off the mat, your abs still play a key part in your life. According to Harvard Medical Schools Healthbeat, your core is the powerhouse from which all daily movements––bending down, looking behind you, lifting, standing etc.––originate. Without strong abdominal muscles, simply daily tasks may suddenly become difficult, putting you at greater risk for injury. And with the American Chiropractic Association citing 31 million Americans as having some form of noticeable lower back pain, one of the simplest ways to alleviate such a common issue is to work those abs!

If you’re a fitness newbie who struggles with sit-ups, it’s ok to build up your strength from that baseline and move on from there. As you progress in your own fitness journey, though, it’s important to make sure that you’re not just working the abs in front, but in the side and back as well. Here are some of our favorite simple ab moves to sculpt a seriously strong core that’ll have those abs popping in no time!

UPPER/LOWER:

  • Roll ups: Lay flat on your back, feet flexed and arms overhead. Without grabbing your knees, raise yourself to a sitting position with your arms still overhead. Slowly roll yourself back down with control and repeat.
  • Double leg lifts: Lay flat on your back, raising legs straight up. Keep your arms by your sides, palms pressing into the floor, or place them underneath your tailbone for added lower back support. Keeping your feet pressed together, lower your legs parallel to the ground and lift them back to straight up.
  • Plank: Starting on your hands and knees, with your wrists directly under your shoulders, press down through your hands while stepping your feet back, bringing your body into one straight line. Keep your navel drawing in and neck relaxed, and hold the position.

OBLIQUES:

  • Russian twists: Sit on the ground with your knees bent and feet lifted off the ground. Lean back slightly, keeping your back straight. Pull your navel in and twist your elbows to the left and to the right. For an added challenge, add a medicine ball!
  • Criss-cross: Lay on your back with your knees lifted, parallel to the floor, and hands behind the nape of your neck and elbows wide. While elongating your right leg, bring your left elbow toward  your right knee. Switch sides and repeat.
  • Hip dips: In a forearm plank position, drop your right hip to touch the floor, return to your plank and then drop your left hip. Keep alternating.

BACK:

  • Supermans: Laying flat on your stomach with your arms overhead and legs elongated, raise your arms and legs simultaneously, doing your best to lift your quads off the ground. Repeat.
  • Good mornings: Stand straight up with your palms pressed together overhead. Keeping your back flat, lower down into a bowing position, then return to standing. This is also a great hamstring stretch1
  • Swimmers: Start out in the same position as superman. Raise arms and legs simultaneously, then alternate lifting right arm/left leg and vice versa without touching the ground.

What are your go-to core moves when you’re craving a good ab burn? Let us know in the comments below!

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