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Bikini season IS officially over. But that doesn’t mean we should ignore our abs! In fact, as we all know, a strong core is important to our overall fitness in a variety of ways. The abdominal muscles help stabilize not only the upper body but also the lower body. A strong core also helps to avoid injury to the back.
An added bonus is that strong abs make your body look better, even if you’re working off some extra weight. And if you work hard on your abs this fall and winter, you know you’ll be thanking yourself next Spring!
While it was once believed that doing hundreds of crunches was the secret to strong firm abs, now we know differently. The best moves are also not found on a machine at the gym. Stabilizing, body weight and compound movements help engage more of the core muscles at once and are more functional, which means they’ll train the abdominal muscles to function better during everyday activities and daily workouts.
The American Council on Exercise has done a study on which ab exercises are most effective. We’ll tell you what the ONE most effective ab exercise is – but we’ll also give you 3 more of our favorites so you can get a quick workout in when you’re short on time!
THE MOST EFFECTIVE AB EXERCISE
This exercise was found to be the single most effective ab exercise by the American Council on Exercise! Bicycle works both on the rectus abdominis (the ‘six pack’) and the obliques. Lay on your back with knees in to the chest, hands lightly supporting your head. Lift the shoulder blades up off the floor and twist to bring the right elbow towards the left knee as you straighten your right leg. Switch sides to bring the left elbow towards the right knee. Continue this pedaling motion for 16 repetitions (8 on each side). Repeat for 3 reps.
THREE MORE SUPER EFFECTIVE ABDOMINAL EXERCISES
Most of us dread doing planks, which is a good indication that they’re very effective! We hate them because they’re hard! In addition to strengthening your abs, plank incorporates back muscles, shoulder muscles, arm muscles and even leg muscles. To do a traditional plank, lie flat on your belly, resting on your forearms. Curl your toes under and raise up onto your toes, resting on your elbows. Keep your back flat and your abs pulled in. Hold for 60 seconds or as long as you can (shoot for at least 30 seconds). Repeat for 3 reps.
2) Reverse Crunch (Heels to Heavens)
This move targets the rectus abdominis, but you’ll particularly feel it in the lower part of the abs. This is a very small, subtle movement, but it’s quite effective. Lie on the floor and place your hands on the floor at your side to stabilize you. Bring the knees in up perpendicular to your body in a comfortable position with feet together (knees can be somewhat bent). Contract the abs and curl the hips up off the floor, reaching your knees toward the ceiling. Perform 3 sets of 16 reps each.
3) Russian Twist
Russian twist is one of the most effective moves for the obliques, and is even more effective using a dumbbell or a weighted medicine ball. Holding the dumbbell or the ball in both hands, sit in a v-shape with your upper body at a 45 degree angle to the floor and your knees bent feet on the floor. To make the exercise more challenging, you can bring your feet up off the floor. Now twist your torso toward the right as far as you can (you can bring your elbow or the dumbbell/ball to lightly touch the floor), then twist toward the left as far as you can. Perform 3 sets of 16 reps (8 reps each side).
Want a full core workout to get super tight abs? We encourage you to give Athlean-XX for Women a try. You’ll work a different muscle group of your body each day in our challenging 30 minute circuit strength sessions, so not only will your abs be strong and lean, but so will the rest of your body! Our Athlean-XX for Women fitness plan actually includes 3 workouts for each muscle group – one DVD workout for home and two laminated workout cards you can take to the gym. That means you’ve got the flexibility to work out wherever you like. Athlean-XX for Women goes wherever you go!
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