The secret to gorgeous abs and a slim waist, in addition to good diet, lies in a combination of exercises that target 3 muscles; your abs, obliques and the transverse abs (the “spandex” of the abdominal muscles). You need to really work all 3 these muscles for an effective waist whittling ab workout that will banish love handles. Our super ab workout consists of 10 simple but very effective moves that target all these muscles, perfect for toning your abs and defining your waist.
Another secret to achieving your sexy abs goal is consistency. You need to do this routine 3 times a week. But it’s quick, fun to do and will be over in a blink. So, grab a mat, pump up the volume and enjoy a great belly blast!
(Top photo: SPOTEBI.com)
THE WARM-UP: 10 MINUTES
Start with a 10-minute warm-up. I suggest this fantastic 10-minute cardio calorie-burner workout which is sure to get your heart rate pumping. Combined with the abs workout below, this will give you an awesome complete cardio/belly blast workout.
THE AB WORKOUT: 15 MINUTES (2 CIRCUITS)
Do one set of each exercise 1 to 10 listed below, performing the reps indicated, resting no more than 10 seconds between each exercise. That’s 1 circuit. Repeat, completing at least 2 full circuits if you’re just starting out. Increase this to 3 circuits as you get fitter and stronger. You can also add dumbbells and leg weights if you want to up the intensity at any time.
1. Pilates straight leg raises: 15 reps
2. Side V-ups: 10 reps/side
3. Up-down plank: 10 reps/side
4. Star toe touch sit-up: 10 reps/side
5. Diamond sit-up: 15 reps
6. High to low wood chopper: 10 reps/side
7. Toe touches: 20 reps
8. Side plank hip lifts: 10 reps/side
9. Pilates scissors crunch: 10 reps
10. Russian twists: 10 reps
Images and a description of how to do these exercises are included lower down in this post. I have included some easier variations of certain exercises for people who may sometimes struggle with lower back pain. Always exercise mindfully. Listen to your body and immediately stop doing anything that causes you any pain.
STRETCH: 5 MINUTES
Always remember to stretch after a workout. It helps relieve the tension in the muscles and prevent injury. I’ve included a link to a perfect 5-minute stretch sequence for this workout here.
1. Pilates straight leg raises
Lie flat on your back with straight legs, making sure your lower back is firmly pressed into the floor. Place your hands under your hips for lower back support. Engage your core and raise your legs slowly off the floor until they are at a 90-degree angle to the floor. When you’re ready, keeping your lower back firmly pressed into the floor, slowly lower your legs down towards the floor. Only lower your legs as far as is comfortable for you. Raise your legs back to the 90 degree start position. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps.
If you find it too hard to keep pushing your lower back into the floor, raise your head and shoulders a little off the floor. If you have any pain in your lower back, STOP and do the pull-up bar variation instead.
Pull-up bar variation: If you’re prone to lower back pain or have access to a pull-up bar, try this variation instead. Holding a pull-up bar, brace your core and lift your legs straight off the ground to hip height, hinging at the hip. Beginners can bend their knees. Slowly lower the legs to start position. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps.
2. Side V-ups
Lie on your right side, with your left hand behind your head and your right hand on the floor for support. Press down into your right hand as you raise your legs off the floor, bringing your torso toward your legs. Lower yourself back to the floor with control. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
Variation: If you’re prone to lower back pain or find this exercise a little tough to do in the beginning, rather perform the move with bent knees. So instead of bringing your legs straight up in a v-position as pictured, bend them towards your torso, then straighten them again as you lower them to the floor.
3. Up-down plank
Begin in a full plank, hands directly under your shoulders. Lower your right elbow to the mat and then your left, coming into an elbow plank. Put your right hand on the mat and push-up straightening your right elbow then do the same on the left to return to a full plank. That’s 1 rep. Do 5 starting with your right hand then do 5 starting with your left hand for a total of 10 reps.
Make sure to maintain your plank position throughout the move. Don’t lift your butt or arch your back or sway from side-to-side as you go up and down.
4. Star toe touch sit-up
Lie on your back, legs extended, feet together, arms extended overhead. Inhale, and as you exhale, engage your abs and raise your right arm and left leg in a crunch, touching your right hand to the left foot. Inhale and slowly lower to starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps, then switch sides.
Variation: If you struggle with any lower back pain or find this exercise a little tough in the beginning, bend the knee when you come up, striving to tap the inside of the foot. Alternatively, if you want to increase the intensity of this exercise pick up some light dumbbells.
5. Diamond sit-up
Lie on your back, and open your legs into a diamond shape with the soles of your feet pressed together, knees bent and splayed out wide. Extend your arms overhead. Inhale and engage your abs as you curl your torso and sit-up with arms extended overhead. Stretch forward and tap the floor in front of your feet (you should feel a bit of a stretch in your glutes and inner thighs). Slowly lower back and curl down to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps.
6. High to low wood chopper
Stand with your feet shoulder width apart, holding a dumbbell or medicine ball with both hands. Twisting to the right, raise the dumbbell or ball with straight arms over the right shoulder. Engage your core and swing the dumbbell back down across your body to the left in a chopping motion. As you do this squat down and twist to the left, bringing the dumbbell or ball to the outside of your left knee. Control the return to the start position with ball raised over the right shoulder again. That’s 1 rep. Do 15 reps per side.
Although you’re using force this is a controlled movement. Resist the momentum and don’t swing the dumbbell or ball. Also focus on the rotation in the torso, keeping the abs engaged throughout. You can also do this without any weight or ball.
7. Toe touches
Lie on your back with your arms alongside your torso, hands on the mat. Lift both legs straight up to a 90-degree angle so the soles of your feet face the ceiling.
Roll your head, neck and shoulders off the mat as you engage your abs and reach your arms forward, stretching towards your toes. Hold the position, with your shoulder blades lifted off the floor, for two to four counts. Slowly release and come back down to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. Do 20 reps.
The toe touch is a simple exercise but, attention to form is critical to protect your back and to make sure the move is effective. Grab a medicine ball or weight to increase intensity.
8. Side plank hip lifts
Get into a side-plank position with your hands under your shoulders and feet stacked one on top of the other. Slowly lower your hip to the floor and raise it up again just before touching the floor. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps, then switch sides.
9. Pilates scissor crunch
Lie on your back, hands behind your head, lifting head and shoulder blades off the floor. Engage your abs and raise your legs to the “leg raise`’ starting position. Drop one leg to the floor while you crunch up to the remaining raised leg briefly and lightly holding it with both hands. Swap legs in a scissor motion and crunch up again. That’s 1 rep. Keep alternating one up and one down. Do 10 reps.
10. Russian twists
Holding a dumbbell with both hands, sit on the floor with your knees bent and your heels planted on the floor. Lean slightly back without rounding your spine. It’s really really important, and challenging, to keep your back straight throughout this exercise.
Pulling your belly button to your spine, twist slowly to the left, bringing the weight to your left side. Then rotate and bring the weight over to the right-hand side. That’s 1 rep. Do 10 reps.
Make this more challenging by lifting your feet off the floor and/or increasing the weight. The further you hold the weight from your chest, the more challenging the exercise will be as well.
(Related posts: Find more of our own “do anywhere” workouts here.)