Develop a strong core with four-time figure Olympia champ Nicole Wilkins’ abdominal workout.

Nicole Wilkins’ diligence keeps her at the top of her sport, and it’s also what gives her those enviable abdominals many of us are currently missing post-winter indulgence. But she admits she has to stay on top of her midsection to keep it reveal-ready.

“Abs have always been a physically strong bodypart because of my gymnastics background, but usually they are flat with no definition come contest time,” she says. “I was only working them like once a week, but my coach and I agreed that we needed to really focus in on that area and make it stand out.”

To make that happen, Wilkins changed her routine dramatically, altering her exercises, bodypart split, training volume and number of sets. She went from working abs once a week to six days a week, and she did nine to 12 sets of different exercises each workout. She also tweaked her diet so that her calories were higher, but her options were more limited. “For instance, I don’t eat artificial sweeteners anymore,” she says, a change that she believes had a huge impact on her overall definition, including her abdominal area.

Nicole’s Success Strategy

• When training abs and core, breathing is very important. A lot of people forget to breathe, but making a conscious effort to inhale and exhale throughout will enable you to do more reps per set, which in the end means more work and better results.

• Don’t hurry through your reps just to get your abs “over with.” Trust me, I am not a huge fan of ab training myself and want the time to fly by, too! But if you do each rep slowly and focus on contracting and squeezing each time, you’ll get stronger and your abs will come up more quickly.

• Abs is an area that requires a good mind-muscle connection. It’s easy to let your upper body or legs and hip flexors take over, and if you’re not connecting to your abs and core when you’re doing a move, that might very well happen. Take a moment before each set and mentally focus in on your abs, then do the reps to help connect your mind to your muscles.

• Always work within your personal comfort zone. This routine has some pretty advanced moves, so if you’re just starting out, modify them to suit your level. As you get stronger, try making them harder to keep progressing.

More:Nicole Wilkins’ Arm Workout

Workout 1

Stability-Ball Pike

Setup: Get on your hands and knees and carefully extend your legs behind you on top of a stability ball. Level your hips so they are in line with your head and heels.

Action: Lift your hips toward the ceiling, pressing into the ball with your feet and dropping your head between your arms. When your torso is vertical or nearly so, pause a moment before slowly returning to the start.

Wilkins’ Note: “When coming back to the start, don’t drop your hips too low. That puts a lot of strain on your lower back.”

V-Up

Setup: Sit on the floor and lean back onto your tailbone. Extend your legs in front of you to hover several inches above the floor. Lean back and reach your arms overhead, elbows by your ears.

Action: Lift your upper and lower bodies simultaneously, reaching your hands toward your feet with straight arms, making a V in the air. Pause a moment, balancing on your tailbone, then slowly lower to the start.

Wilkins’ Note: “This is an advanced move. To make it easier, cross your arms over your chest or lower them by your hips.”

Windshield Wiper

Setup: Lie faceup on the floor and place a medicine ball (4 to 6 pounds) between your ankles. Raise your legs over your hips and extend your arms out to the sides.

Action: Slowly drop your legs to one side, controlling the descent and stopping about 6 to 12 inches from the floor. Pause briefly, then raise your legs back to the start. Continue, alternating sides.

Wilkins’ Note: “Try to keep your back as flat on the floor as possible, and use your arms to stabilize you.”

Ab-Wheel Rollout

Setup: Kneel with your legs together and grasp the handles of an ab wheel, arms straight.

Action: Slowly roll the wheel forward, extending your arms and lowering your hips. Roll out until your body is almost completely straight, then reverse the move and use your abs to pull yourself back to the start.

Wilkins’ Note: “This is an advanced move. To make it easier, cross your arms over your chest or lower them by your hips.”

Workout 2

Bench Rockies

Setup: Lie faceup on a flat bench and reach your arms overhead, grasping the end of the bench with both hands. Lift your hips and lower back off the bench and extend your legs overhead, feet together and toes pointed.

Action: Without dropping your hips or lower back, lever your legs away from you and reach your toes for the opposite wall. Pause a moment, then bring them back overhead.

Wilkins’ Note: “This is a really challenging move, so if you can only get a few reps at a time, that’s perfectly fine. Rest a beat in between, then try for a few more reps.”

Extended Plank

Setup: Get into a forearm plank position with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels all in line. Shift your elbows forward several inches so they are in front of your shoulders while maintaining your body and leg position.

Action: Hold and breathe.

Wilkins’ Note: “Planking like this eliminates the shoulders and chest and really forces the work onto the core.”

Elevated Plank Row

Setup: Place a kettlebell on the floor next to a flat bench and crouch in front of the bench. Extend both feet behind you and place your toes wide on the bench; you should now be balancing on your toes and both hands. Grasp the kettlebell with one hand, arm extended, keeping your hips level.

Action: Dive your elbow up and back, pulling the kettlebell into your rib cage. Slowly lower back to the start, touching the weight to the floor briefly before going into the next rep. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Wilkins’ Note: “Keep your hips square and your spine neutral throughout.”

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2014 Olympia Bikini champion Ashley Kaltwasser shares her secret formula for sculpting sexy abs.

Ashley Kaltwasser not only has an enviable booty, but she also possesses a rock-hard midsection that many women envy! So we got her to share her best training tips for abs and show us her all-time favorite moves to get a strong core and a sexy, flat midsection. You can do this workout at home or at the gym.

Ashley’s Top Training Tips for Abs

  1. Don’t do your ab moves mindlessly. Really think about the movement you’re doing and connect mentally to your muscles with each rep. That makes a huge difference in intensity, especially if you squeeze and hold each rep for a second or so.
  2. Don’t be afraid to use weights for ab training. Plates, light dumbbells and even ankle weights are great to increase the challenge and make an old, easy move new and exciting again. I like to use ankle weights for lower-ab moves like leg lifts or my flutter kicks.

Related:A Champion Lower Body

  1. Train all parts of your abs each time you work out and use different movements that hit the obliques, upper and lower abs, and your transverse abdominis. Go online and do a search for “unique ab moves” and you’ll come up with a ton of new ideas for all the muscles involved.
  2. Hold your abs tight and contract them when you’re doing other movements, whether it’s a squat or a triceps pressdown. This helps strengthen your entire core while helping support and stabilize your spine when you’re lifting heavy weight.
  3. Use a slow and steady speed with full range of motion to make the most of each ab move. Cheating your reps or doing them at warp speed doesn’t do anything for development and could put your spine at risk.

Stability-Ball Pass-Through

Setup: Lie faceup and hold a stability ball with both hands overhead so it’s touching the ground behind you. Extend your legs away from you in a V.

Move: Simultaneously lift the ball and your legs so they meet in the middle over your hips. Pass the ball from your hands to your feet, then lower your arms overhead and your legs toward the floor until the ball touches down. Then reverse the move and pass the ball back to your hands to complete one repetition.

Tip: As you’re passing the ball to your feet or vice versa, do a little crunch with your upper and lower bodies to increase the intensity.

Flutter Kick

Setup: Lie faceup on the floor with your legs extended straight, toes pointed. Place your hands underneath your hips for support and lift your legs so they’re about 6 inches off the floor.

Move: Quickly kick your feet up and down, using a small range of motion and remembering to breathe. Continue for the duration of time allotted.

Tip: The lower your feet are to the ground, the more challenging the move becomes.

V-Up

Setup: Lie faceup on the floor with your arms and legs extended.

Move: Simultaneously lift your legs up (together and straight) as you reach your hands for your toes, meeting in the middle, balanced briefly on your tailbone. Slowly lower to the start and repeat right away.

Tip: To make this move easier, do it with your knees bent and your arms reaching to the outside of your legs.

Photos by Corey Sorenson

Change your life today. Join Ashley’s 90-day Challenge online course today!

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Here’s a fast, do-anywhere routine for developing a marvelous midsection, whether you’re a beginner or know your way around the gym.

Bringing out what nature intended calls for exercises that not only hit your abs from various angles, but also work other body parts. Well-defined abs come from reducing the body fat that’s covering them. In other words, you’ll have to bust out more than isolated, on-the-floor sit-ups to see the hoped-for results.

Related:Five Moves for Sexy Abs

To get you started, Oxygen developed an abs-blasting workout that hits all four major abs muscles in one routine. It covers your rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques and your deepest abs muscle, the transverse abdominis. And since all you need is a stability ball and a mat or a comfortable section of floor space, it’s perfect for at home or the gym.

Go for the beginner/intermediate choice (see chart below) when you start out, doing the routine three times a week on non-consecutive days. Set your sights on trying the advanced exercises after two or three weeks, but only if you feel comfortable doing so. Either way, you’ll want to start showing off your sexy abs in as little as two months.

1. Floor Crunch

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (upper portion)

How To: Lie faceup on a mat with your head, shoulders and torso on the floor, and your heels and calves resting on top of a stability ball. Place your hands behind your head, elbows flaring out to the sides.

Contract your abdominals as you curl your torso upward, lifting your head and shoulders from the ground but keeping your lower back on the floor. Slowly lower yourself back down and repeat.

Pointer: Having your legs on a ball does a better job of activating your abs than placing them on a bench because a ball has to be controlled.

Stability Ball Crunch

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (upper portion), internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis

How To: Sit on a ball with your legs bent, feet flat on the floor. Walk your feet away from the ball and lean backward until the ball is under your mid- to upper back with your shoulders and head just off the ball’s surface. Place your hands lightly behind your head, elbows facing out to the sides.Keeping your abdominals tight, slowly curl your torso upward, lifting just your upper back from the ball. Slowly return to the starting position and repeat.

Pointer: Bring your feet close together to work your stabilizing muscles. Emphasize lifting your torso lightly instead of jerking upward.

2. Stability Ball Roll-Up

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (lower portion), internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi

How To: Get into a straight-leg push-up position with your hands under your shoulders on the floor and your feet on a stability ball, soles facing the ceiling. Contract your back to draw your shoulder blades toward each other. Tighten your abs as you bend your legs to roll the ball toward your body, pointing your tailbone to the ceiling at the top of the move. Slowly straighten your legs to roll the ball away from you, back to the starting position. Repeat.

Pointer: This is an effective abs movement because it requires mobility and stability. Contract your abs throughout the move.

Stability Ball Pike

Muscles Emphasized: rectus abdominis (lower portion), internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, latissimus dorsi

How To: Get into a straight-leg push-up position with your hands on the floor under your shoulders and your feet on a stability ball, soles facing the ceiling. Retract your shoulder blades. Contract your abs up as you flex your hips, rolling the ball toward your body as you direct your tailbone toward the ceiling. Your body should form an inverted V with your toes up on the ball and your torso in a straight line. Slowly lower your hips to return to the start. Repeat.

Pointer: This pike requires both abdominal strength and stability to pull your abs in and your torso up against gravity. Your rectus abdominis works especially hard as it pulls on the hips. Don’t round your back as you roll the ball.

3. Russian Twist on Ball

Muscles Emphasized: internal and external obliques

How To: Holding a medicine ball or plate in both hands, sit on a ball with your feet flat on the floor, shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms in front of you so that your hands are at about shoulder height. Walk your feet forward and lean back until your upper back and shoulders rest on the ball. With your arms extended, rotate your torso to your left until your shoulder touches the stability ball. Return to the center, then rotate your torso to the right. Return to the center and continue, alternating sides.

Pointer: Be sure that you rotate from your abs, not your shoulder joints, as you twist from side to side. Try doing it empty-handed — gravity makes this exercise easier because it pulls the ball as you rotate.

Obliques Rotation

Muscles Emphasized: internal and external obliques, rectus abdominis, transverse abdominis

How To: Sit on a ball with your feet on the floor positioned shoulder-width apart. Brace your abs and slowly walk your feet forward until your torso is about 45 degrees to the floor. Place your hands lightly behind your head without pulling it forward, elbows pointing out to the sides (don’t let them fold in front of your body). Slowly twist your torso to the left, then the right, contracting your abdominals throughout the move and maintaining a controlled speed. Repeat, alternating between the left and right sides.

Pointer: This move works your middle because the backward lean engages your transverse abdominis and rectus abdominis to hold your body in place while your obliques control the twisting motion.

4. Ball Plank

Muscles Emphasized: transverse abdominis, erector spinae, pectoralis major, deltoids, scapular retractors

How To: Bend your knees and kneel on the floor in front of a ball, resting your forearms on top. Keep your abs tight and your back straight. Lift your knees from the floor, balancing between your forearms and toes. Hold, continuing to breathe normally throughout.

Pointer: Rolling shifts your center of gravity, changing the intensity of each rep. The move gets harder as you roll forward and less intense as you roll back. Don’t roll too far, though, as that can put pressure on your shoulder joints.

Stability Ball Roll-Out

Muscles Emphasized: transverse abdominis, internal and external obliques, latissimus dorsi, deltoids, triceps brachii

How To: Kneel in front of a ball, keeping your back straight. Bend your arms to 90 degrees and rest your forearms on the ball. Contract your abs and lean forward while extending your arms, keeping your torso straight as you roll the ball away. Stop when your arms are almost straight and your body is nearly aligned from your shoulders to your hips to your knees; you should be balancing on the ball with your forearms and elbows. Return to the start and repeat.

Pointer: If you’re in fine form, someone would be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your head to your heels. You can keep your spine neutral by looking at a spot in front of the ball.

Photography by Robert Reiff

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Get a firm and functional core in just three weeks with supersets.

Training your abs but neglecting your lower back is like going out in the sun without loading up on sunscreen: you might be able to get away with it for a little while, but your reckless ways will soon catch up with you – and the results won’t be worth it. It may sound like a scare tactic, but would you prefer chronic lower-back pain and a protruding stomach? Didn’t think so!

Supersetting abdominal exercises and those that target the erector spinae — a long set of muscles that runs alongside the spine — may be the key to maintaining spinal stability and ensuring that your entire core is rockin’! This workout features this exact training method – and promises results in less than a month.

Your Super Core Secret

When you perform two exercises back-to-back with no rest in between, you are executing an effective and efficient training technique known as supersetting. You can superset any two exercises, but when you select moves that hit opposing muscle groups — such as biceps and triceps, quads and hamstrings or, in this case, abs and lower back — you are working your muscles in an agonist/antagonist fashion. “Most muscles work in pairs,” explains fitness expert Brad Schoenfeld, author of Women’s Home Workout Bible (Human Kinetics, 2009). “When one is contracting [agonist] the other is stretching and relaxing [antagonist].”

Supersets work exceptionally well when applied to these complementary pairs, says Schoenfeld, because you are training the body in a balanced manner. If you just focus on your abs and ignore your lower back, you can set yourself up for poor functional performance, as well as increased potential for injury.

Muscular Harmony

Jonathan Ross, 2010 IDEA Personal Trainer of the Year and author of Abs Revealed (Human Kinetics, 2010) is also a big fan of training this way. “Think of your midsection as an aerial float in a parade,” he suggests. “If the people at the back of the float (your lower back) let go, the people at the sides and front (your abs) have to work harder to keep everything in place.”

Ross considers abs and lower-back supersets to be an advanced technique, so beginners: stick to the lower range of reps and sets, and extend the rest periods to help your breathing return to normal.

Strong, Stable & Sexy

A strong core not only looks great, it’s also an important component of functional fitness. Those rock-solid abs and lower back will help you with your performance, whether you’re running, rowing, or even working on your pull-ups at the gym. Power moves emanate from your center, and when you have a well-developed midsection, your limbs benefit from that support.

During this routine, you’ll be targeting your abs with the first exercise and your lower back with the second. Do it once or twice weekly on non-consecutive days for a bulletproof core in about three weeks!

Superhuman Core Workout

Perform one set of both exercises in each superset back-to-back, then rest for 60 to 90 seconds. Repeat for the desired number of sets, then move on to the next superset.

Superset One

Captain’s Chair Raise

Target Muscles: rectus abdominis, obliques

Set Up: Position yourself at the captain’s chair apparatus so that your back and forearms are supported by the padding, and hold the handles with a light grip.

Action: Keeping your legs straight, flex from your hips to raise your legs; beginners, bend your knees and lift them toward your chest. Slowly reverse, then repeat.

Stability-Ball Hyperextension

Target Muscles: erector spinae, glutes

Set Up: Position your abdomen against a stability ball, with your legs extended as shown. Place your hands behind your head and drape your torso over the ball.

Action: Extend your hips to raise your chest from the ball until you feel your back and glutes engage. Slowly return to the start and repeat.

Training Tip: Do this exercise on a non-slip floor or with the soles of your shoes against a wall to prevent your feet from sliding.

Superset Two

Stability-Ball Plank

Target Muscles: transverse abdominis

Set Up: Place your forearms on a stability ball as shown, and extend your legs so that your body forms a straight line from head to heels.

Action: Hold this position for the prescribed amount of time. Throughout your set, contract your abs to ensure your hips don’t sag.

Training Tip: Pay attention to your shoulders — they should not creep up toward your ears.

Incline Back Bridge

Target Muscles: erector spinae

Set Up: Lie faceup on a mat with your legs extended. Place your palms on the mat to either side of your ribcage and straighten your arms to lift your body from the floor.

Action: Hold this position for the recommended amount of time. Keep your eyes on the ceiling above you.

Training Tip: make sure that your hips stay in a straight line with your body.

Superset Three

Decline Sit-Up

Target Muscles: rectus abdominis

Set Up: Lie faceup on a decline bench, securing your legs under the padding as shown. Place your hands lightly behind your head for support.

Action: Contract your abs and flex from your hips to raise your torso. Pause for one count, then slowly reverse the move to return to the start. Repeat.

Dumbbell Stiff-Legged Deadlift

Target Muscles: erector spinae, glutes

Set Up: Stand tall and hold a dumbbell in each hand. Your arms should be extended, with palms facing the front of your thighs.

Action: Hinge forward from your hips. Once the weights move past your knees (go as far as you can comfortably), reverse the move to return to the start. Repeat for your set.

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If you’re ready to get down, this core program will have your middle looking magnificent in no time!

Sometimes the most difficult part about working your core isn’t training it — it’s determining new ways to punish it. “Shaping an impressive core takes a mix of moves that no one ever does, done in a way that most wouldn’t dare,” says Alec Penix, celebrity trainer and author of Seven Sundays (Howard Books, 2018). These two circuits, designed by Penix, offer the perfect assortment of exercises to work your middle in every possible direction at a pace that will leave you breathless and burning.

Concentrate on doing each exercise with perfect form during the time given. And unless an exercise directs you otherwise, your goal is to perform each move with a two-second up, two-second down pace. “What many people forget is that your core muscles’ primary job is to resist movement, not produce it,” Penix says. “When you rush through a move, you’re forcing your muscles to rely on momentum and work differently than how they’re designed.”

And before each exercise, Penix gives this tip: “Contract your core even before you start a move. This immediately reinforces your posture, stabilizes your back and improves your form so that you’ll reap more results from the routine with less risk of injury.”

If you’re ready to get down, this program will have your middle looking magnificent in no time!

Your Summer-Ready Core Circuits

Perform Circuit A one day, Circuit B the next and either take a day off or repeat each circuit again before giving your core a rest.

Do all four exercises back-to-back for 30 seconds each with 10 seconds or less of rest between moves. After you’ve completed the circuit, rest 20 seconds, then repeat it once or twice more, depending on your fitness level.

To make a circuit more challenging, increase the duration of the work from 30 to 45 or 60 seconds. To make a circuit easier, work in reps rather than in time, and shoot for eight to 15 reps per move.

Scissor Crunch

Scissor Crunch

Lie flat on your back with your hands lightly touching the sides of your head, elbows flared, and your legs extended straight out. Lift your heels about 6 inches off the floor and press your lower back into the ground. Maintain that core contraction as you lift your head, shoulders and upper back off the floor and rotate to the right, simultaneously lifting your right knee to meet your left elbow at the midline of your body. Lower slowly to the start and continue, alternating sides.

Single-Arm Slider

Single-Arm Slider

Put two small towels on the floor, then get into a push-up position with one hand placed on each towel. Center your hands underneath your shoulders and align your head, hips and heels. Brace your core to keep your hips steady, then slide one arm straight out in front of you as far as you can without losing your balance. Pull the towel/hand back underneath you and continue, alternating sides.

Feet-Up Russian Twist

Feet-Up Russian Twist

Sit with your knees bent and your feet raised just off the floor, legs together, ankles crossed. Keeping your spine straight, lean back with your torso back until it makes a 45-degree angle with the floor. Hold a small medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands, extend your arms straight out from your shoulders and brace your core. Moving your shoulders and arms as one unit, twist at the waist and rotate side to side smoothly yet briskly, without losing form.

Side Plank Hip Raise

Side Plank Hip Raise

Lie on your left side with your legs straight and stacked on top of each other. Position your left elbow underneath your left shoulder and press your palm into the floor. Hold a small dumbbell in your right hand and extend your right arm straight up to the ceiling. Press your hips up so you’re in side plank with your head, hips and heels aligned. Keep your right arm steady as you slowly lower your hips down to touch briefly on the floor, then raise them up again to align with your legs and torso. Complete all time on one side before switching.

Plank Jack Leg Lift

Plank Jack Leg Lift

Get into plank with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Brace your core and actively press into the floor with your elbows and forearms as you quickly jump your feet open and then closed, keeping your hips low. Then lift one leg up as high as you can without arching your back and replace. Repeat with the other leg to complete one rep.

V-Crunch and Touch

V-Crunch and Touch

Lie faceup with your legs extended straight and your arms extended up alongside your head. Simultaneously raise your legs and torso off the floor, sweeping your arms up and over in an arc so at the top of the crunch, your hands touch the floor on both sides of your hips. Reverse the steps to return to the start.

Twisting Split-Leg Crunch

Twisting Split-Leg Crunch

Lie faceup with your hands lightly touching the sides of your head and your legs raised straight up over your hips. Open your legs apart into a V, keeping them straight. Press your lower back into the floor and maintain that contraction as you curl your torso up and rotate to the right, bringing your left elbow toward your right leg. (Note: Your legs do not move in this exercise, just your torso). Lower yourself back down and continue, alternating sides.

Side Plank Tuck

Side Plank Tuck

Lie on your left side with your legs straight and your hips stacked, and split your feet for balance. Position your left elbow underneath your left shoulder and actively press down into the floor with your elbow and forearm. Place the fingertips of your right hand behind your ear, elbow flared and pointing toward the ceiling, then lift your hips to align with your head and heels. Hold yourself steady in plank as you quickly draw your left knee into your chest and simultaneously curl forward and try to touch it with your right elbow. Return to the start. Complete all the time on one side before switching.

The Core Facts 

Your abs are tougher than you think.

Even though most muscles need 48 hours of rest to recover and get stronger, your core muscles can actually become weaker if you ignore them. So long as you’re not overtraining and leaving your core so sore that it’s negatively affecting your other training days, you can train it every day. Also, remember to stretch them regularly for improved mobility and range of motion.

There is no “perfect” ab exercise.

Yes, one move may work a higher percentage of certain muscles within your core than another move. However, it takes a variety of exercises to do the job right and get you the midsection of your dreams. Include core moves that work in rotation, anti-rotation, flexion and even extension in your routine for best results. It’s not about quantity — it’s about quality.

It’s not about quantity — it’s about quality. 

So long as you’re using perfect form and are actively engaging your core during each and every repetition, it doesn’t matter whether your muscles are exhausted after five or 50 reps. Also, remember to breathe as you perform the moves, delivering oxygen to working muscles and increasing the duration of time you can work.

Your six-pack is actually an eight-pack.

Your abs are one long sheet of muscle (the rectus abdominis) held in place by three strips of tendons running horizontally, with another strip (the linea alba) running vertically to cut them in half. If you do the math, this makes eight sections. Most people never see all eight, though; it depends on how strong/tight your tendons are and how low your body fat is. Sucking your gut in isn’t vain — it’s smart.

Sucking your gut in isn’t vain — it’s smart. 

Pulling in your stomach (“bracing your core”) as you exercise — or even during the day when you’re not — strengthens your transverse abdominis, the hidden band of muscle that encircles your midsection like a corset and that is key in stabilizing your pelvis and engaging your core. It will also improve posture and give the appearance of a flatter belly.

A strong core makes other activities easier. 

Strengthening your center can help improve your kinetic linking, the transfer of power from your feet to the rest of your body. For instance, when you throw a punch, the power goes from the floor to your feet through your hips and out your fist. The more fit your core is, the easier it is for your muscles to generate force, allowing you to run faster, lift heavier and train longer. 

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Strengthen, sculpt and burn all at once with this ab-and-cardio combo workout.

Savvy exercisers know that achieving a six-pack requires a combination of ab-centric resistance training and an intensive cardio program (as well as a clean diet). But can you blend cardio and strength work together in the interest of efficiency? Samantha Carmean, CSCS, SFG, PN, a Tier X coach with Equinox in New York City, says yes. “I came up with an effective solution that allows for actual muscle growth while helping you attain that ‘six-pack’ look,” Carmean says.

Each move in this five-move circuit is done for a two-minute interval, which is parsed out into four rounds of 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. “Two minutes is the zone where we begin to transition from the anaerobic energy system to aerobic metabolism,” Carmean says. “And the 20/10 [breakdown] allows just enough rest to perform the exercise repeatedly with good form.”

Move quickly from one exercise to the next and complete one to three rounds, depending on your fitness level. Rest two minutes between rounds. “As you build muscular endurance, gradually reduce the 10-second rest and aim to perform the full two minutes straight through,” Carmean says.

Plank Up/Down

Start in plank with your hands under your shoulders and your head, hips and heels aligned. Keep your trunk stable and your hips square as you lower one arm at a time into a forearm plank. Reverse the steps to return to the top and continue, alternating arms.

Side Plank Knee to Elbow

Assume a full side plank, balancing on your left hand and left foot with your hips stacked. Reach your right arm overhead, then bring your right knee and right elbow together and tap them lightly. Extend both back to the start and repeat.

Gliding Mountain Climber

Assume a plank position with your hands underneath your shoulders and each foot on a gliding disc or small towel. Bend one knee and slide your foot toward your hands without lifting your hips or bending at the waist, then return to plank. Continue, alternating sides.

Anti-Rotational Band Hold

Anchor a resistance band at chest height to a stable object like a squat rack and stand sideways to the anchor point, moving far enough away that you feel a pull when you hold the band. Grasp the band handle in both hands, then extend your arms directly in front of your chest and hold, resisting the pull of the band.

Twister

Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, toes forward. Jump and turn your lower body side to side in a twisting action while keeping your shoulders square and your focus forward. 

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Let these five ab-specific moves be your ultimate guide to a strong and svelte core this summer.

We all know abs are made in the kitchen — but they’re also perfected at the gym. Nutrition and fitness are the dynamic duo you’ll need to rock a midriff-baring tank or that itsy-bitsy bikini with confidence this summer. But there’s more to having a strong core than just for vanity’s sake.

“The core determines your posture, power, alignment, balance, control and circulation so that function is optimal,” says personal trainer Jessica Schatz, widely recognized as The Core Expert, who uses her own unique methodology rooted in Pilates and the tools gained from her professional dance career to help clients like fashion mogul Ashley Olsen, NBA star Wesley Matthews of the Dallas Mavericks and members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “If you think of your core muscles as a sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body, you will understand that your arms and legs will function best if core muscles are strong and flexible. Physical motion ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. When you hit a tennis ball, mop the floor, pull open a file cabinet or make any other movement, the necessary motions either originate in your core or move through it.”

Her tips for sexy summer abs include the following:

Stay hydrated. 

Drinking sufficient water boosts your metabolism, cleanses your body of waste and acts as an appetite suppressant — all of which promote weight loss. It also regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. In this way, your body performs at its optimal level so you can exercise better, smarter and longer. Plus, you’ll digest food more efficiently, eliminating pain, cramping, dizziness and other dehydration symptoms.

Pro tip: Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning. Have aluminum or glass bottles to rinse and refill every day so they are ready to go. Keep one in your car, your purse and your gym bag, and refill whenever possible. Always have a full glass of water right before every meal. You’ll eat less, you’ll feel more satiated from what you do eat and your food will metabolize better. 

Full-body movements. 

When it comes to exercise for abdominals, focus on full-body weight movements (think any plank variation) rather than doing thousands of crunches. These are more efficient, burn more fat and calories, and help you stabilize all parts of your body, joints and especially spine to function better through your workouts. That is why functional fitness such as Pilates is great — it is full-body movement starting at the core. So skip the singularly focused arm or shoulder day and instead do squats or lunges while shoulder raising or overhead pressing.

HIIT it and quit it (all that cardio). 

Rather than an hour of straight cardio, do high-intensity interval training — a technique in which you exert maximum effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat and calories in less time — more effectively than after a lower impact steady-state exercise such as the elliptical machine or jogging. Ultimately, you work harder, not longer, which is a great timesaver.

Always remember your core.

Besides doing regular core and abdominal exercises (which may currently be part of your workout routine), pull your navel to your spine at all times — even when you’re not exercising. Do it when you’re brushing your teeth, when you’re driving your car, in line at the store — anytime.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to breathe along the way. Every time you finish an exhale, imagine someone pulling a corset tight around your midsection. This will work the abdominal wall while creating “muscle memory.” It also helps keep your spine and posture stable.

The Ultimate Ab Workout

To feel long and lean in no time, do the following moves twice through (or three times if you’re feeling frisky), four to five times per week, along with 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio. These exercises are designed to target your full body, resulting in a toned butt and thighs, sleeker arms and swimsuit-worthy abs.

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The bikini pro and Olympia and Arnold champion shares her favorite tricks to achieve a head-turning midsection.

Have you heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”? I find this to be 100 percent accurate. Diet plays a major role in unveiling abdominal definition. But if you don’t develop solid muscle in this region of your body, you won’t have as much to show for your healthy eating choices.

Abs come in all shapes and sizes, with genetics playing a big role in their exact form. Some are wide, while some are narrow. Some are symmetrical, while others are “crooked.” These specific traits cannot be changed, but you can work with what ya got! You may naturally have a little extra flesh in the middle, but you shouldn’t lose hope. You may just have to work a little harder. Hey, we all have our strengths, weaknesses and unique beauty!

I try to work my abs twice a week. They can be trained in a short amount of time if you work them out efficiently. There are many bodyweight exercises that can be performed almost anywhere that can engage your core effectively.

Here are some of my top tips for tighter abs.   

Try my favorite ab workout:

Hold a 90-degree “L” on the Roman chair for one minute.

Do 30 reverse crunches using ankle weights.

Do 20 Roman twists (each side), using ankle weights.

Do one-minute flutter kicks on the Roman chair.

Do 10 V-hold-ups using ankle weights and/or small plates.

Repeat the workout three times.

Ready to get abs like Ashley? The Ashley Kaltwaser Challenge will guide you through a fitness and nutrition program that has helped her secure three Bikini Olympia and two Arnold Bikini International championship titles! For more details, click here.

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