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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