Yoga calms the mind and increases your flexibility, but it can also strengthen your core and give you toned abs that are sexy all year round. Try these five yoga poses that target your entire midsection, both front and back.
You might not be sporting a bikini any time soon, but you still want to maintain that strong, sculpted tummy, and three minutes is all it takes. Here are three effective moves to tone your lower, middle, and upper abs that make for a perfect post-cardio core workout. For even more of a burn, repeat this circuit two or three times.
Lying Bent-Knee Leg Extension
Keep the lower back planted on the floor as you slowly alternate lowering each heel to the floor for one minute.
Roll-Up Crunch and Punch
Repeat as many punches as you can for one minute.
Plank With Alternating Leg Lift
Hold your torso parallel with the ground, and keep the core strong as you slowly alternate lifting each leg for an entire minute.
You might have traded in your bikini for a cozy sweater, but toned abs never go out of style, so keep drawing your navel toward your spine. Here are nine great exercises for toning your midsection. Remember, the ol' Pilates trick of pulling the belly button in ensures that you're working the deepest ab muscle (known as the transverse), which helps create a sleek midriff.
The exercises are divided into three sections: upper abs, obliques, and lower abs. You can approach this workout three different ways: pick one exercise from each section and perform two to three sets, pick two exercises from each section and do one to two sets, or for the ultimate boredom buster, do one set of all nine exercises.
The name may be a little odd, but the multitasking Pilates move Saw Off Your Baby Toe is a great move for strengthening the abs and increasing flexibility in the lower back and hamstrings. Since this is a twisting exercise, you'll also increase side-to-side spinal mobility.
- Sit on the floor with your legs open slightly wider than your hips, feet flexed. Extend your arms out to the sides.
- Inhale to lengthen the spine, twist your ribs over to the right, and lean your belly over your right leg, reaching your left fingers just past your baby toe.
- Exhale to sit up, pulling the abdominals deeply to the spine, coming back to the starting position. Repeat on the left side.
- This counts as one rep. Complete three sets of eight to 10 reps. Here's a video showing this Pilates move in action.
Refresh your workout by adding some dance and yoga to your sculpting routine with these five signature moves from Yoga Booty Ballet. The founders of Swerve Studios created this ultimate hybrid workout fusing yoga, cardio dance, and booty sculpting. These moves are so fun you won't realize how much your abs and glutes are working until you're done. Watch this video to learn a handful of exercises perfect for your home workout.
It was exciting enough to be one of the few writers invited to WOW Fitness Festival by the Telluride Tourism Board, but while there, I hit some sort of exercise nirvana. Outside on my yoga mat with the Rocky Mountains in plain sight, I was certain today would be the day of 50 burpees! Just as I was ready to give it my all, our instructor noted we would be doing crunches. Wait just a minute, I thought to myself. No one does crunches anymore.
Crunches have taken a beating in recent years, and the claims are many: they're bad for your back, they encourage horrible posture, the don't work the muscles that matter . . . the list goes on and on. Our trainer for the day, Jonathan Ross, says this type of thinking is pretty typical of the industry he calls home. "The fitness world is all about extremes — first it was all about low intensity; now everything is about max intervals," says Jonathan. "Same goes with crunches. Once seen as the king of ab exercises, they're suddenly the worst thing you can do for yourself." It's time to get away from that, he says.
Crunches, he explains, are a natural movement: "Think about getting out of bed, for instance." The problem isn't the exercise; it's how people have been performing them. Even beyond proper form, Jonathan cites that there was a push to do as many crunches as possible in the blink of the eye. As is the case with any move, he says, "We need to do them correctly, in moderation." When done right, crunches challenge the muscles, help improve spine flexibility, and, best of all, can be built upon into more progressive and challenging exercises.
Jonathan's advice is simple: stop performing the exercise like you're on a crunch machine after downing a Red Bull. Instead, perform three sets of 10-20 slow and controlled reps. He also suggests keeping the torso open to help avoid postural issues; instead of keeping both hands behind the ears, extend one out to the side while in the movement. Doing this will also take some of the load off the rectus abdominis (aka, the six-pack) and activate other areas of the abs.
Before you get started, make sure to watch our primer on doing crunches correctly to ensure your form is on point!
Aside from squats, bridge is another must-do move for a toned, tight tush and thighs. Here's a variation called the bridge pike to add to your routine that'll also strengthen the backs of your arms and your core while also increasing flexibility in your lower back and hamstrings.
- Begin sitting on your butt with your hands planted eight inches behind you. Bend your knees, and place your heels about a foot away from your backside. Make sure feet are hip-distance apart.
- Inhale and lift your hips off of the ground so your torso is parallel with the floor and your arms are straight (bridge). Your hands should be directly underneath the shoulders and your ankles underneath the knees. Lower your head behind you to increase the stretch in your chest and neck.
- Hold for a complete breath, and then, keeping your arms straight, exhale to lower your hips and straighten out the legs, keeping your hips hovering above the floor. Engage your abs, and try to keep the spine long as you balance on your heels and hands. After a complete breath, inhale and push yourself back into bridge position.
- Do three sets of 15 reps, flowing from one position to the other, pivoting on your hands and heels. To make this move more challenging, hold each position for longer.
Even though bikini season is almost over, smooth and toned sides are always in style. These four exercises will help you strengthen your side body and tame back bulge, regardless of the weather.
Crunches may have lost their luster with the very fit crowd, but bicycle crunches really work when it comes to toning your obliques:
- Lie flat on the floor with your lower back pressed to the ground (pull your abs down to also target your deep abs). Interlace your fingers, and put your hands behind your head.
- Bring your knees in toward your chest, and lift your shoulder blades off the ground.
- Straighten your right leg out to about a 45-degree angle to the ground while turning your upper body to the left, bringing your right elbow toward the left knee. Make sure your rib cage is moving and not just your elbows.
- Now switch sides and do the same motion on the other side to complete one rep (and to create the "pedaling" motion). Do this exercise with slow and controlled motion.
- Perform two sets of 10 to 20 reps.
Seated Russian Twist
While this ab exercise mainly targets your obliques, your back muscles will be engaged to strengthen and support your spine. To increase the difficulty of this exercise, hold a five-pound medicine ball or dumbbell at chest height:
- Sit on the ground with your knees bent and your heels about a foot from your bum.
- Lean slightly back without rounding your spine at all. It is really important, and difficult, to keep your back straight, but don't let it curve.
- Place your arms straight out in front of you with your hands one on top of the other. Your hands should be level with the bottom of your rib cage.
- Pull your navel to your spine and twist slowly to the left. The movement is not large and comes from the ribs rotating, not from your arms swinging. Inhale through center and rotate to the right. This completes one rep.
- Do 16 full rotations.
Keep reading for one more move to tone those sides, plus an even more challenging variation.
Downward Facing Dog is one of the most common poses you'll find in a yoga class, but if you're bored with the basic version with both hands and feet on the mat, try these variations. You can add them in when you're doing Down Dog in your next yoga class, or breathe through all seven in a row when doing yoga at home. Aside from adding a little fun to your practice, throwing these poses into your sequence will also help to strengthen your arms, core, butt, and legs more effectively.