Even if you are conscientious about exercise during the rest of the year, the holidays are so busy that fitness often ends up on the back burner. The holidays may not be the time to plan for super long and intense workouts, but that doesn’t mean you can’t keep moving forward toward your goals.
Everyone loves the idea of a flat stomach, and let’s be honest, crunches are not the most exciting of exercises. Believe it or not, they aren’t the most effective way to tone your abs anyway. If you are bored with your sit-up routine, these 7 abdominal exercises require no equipment; which means fewer excuses and more reasons to go for it and get stronger abs just in time for the holidays!
To perform a plank, place your forearms on the ground with your elbows aligned below your shoulders, and your arms parallel to your body shoulder-width apart. Squeeze your core and pay attention to keeping your back flat. Focus on pulling your belly button in as you hold the position. Begin by trying to hold the plank for 15-20 second increments and increase the time as you get more comfortable.
To perform a bird-dog, kneel on all fours with your shoulders over your hands and hips over your knees. With your abs braced, extend your left arm and your right leg out as far as you can without further extending your spine. Lower your limbs back to the floor and repeat on the opposite sides. Continue alternating sides for the duration of your set. Your abs work with your lower back to keep your shoulders and hips square as you move your leg and arm. Start with 2 or 3 sets of 6 to 12 reps on each side and, as you gain core strength, increase the number of repetitions.
To perform a reverse crunch, lie on the floor with your feet flat on the floor and hands behind your head. Press your lower back into the floor and pull in your belly button as you lift your feet off of the floor. Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle and pull into your chest so that your tailbone raises off of the ground, and at the same time lift your shoulder blades off of the floor. Focus on squeezing your abs to perform the movement. Slowly lower your shoulders, hips and legs to the starting position, keeping your feet just above the floor. Try starting with 3 to 5 sets of as many reps as you can, resting about a minute between sets. Be sure to squeeze your abs and focusing on your breathing during this exercise. Yes, it sure does lift your buns and tone your thighs, but this exercise also really works your abs.
Seated Russian Twist
To perform a Russian twist, lie on the floor with your knees bent at a 90-degree angle while raising your upper body from the ground. Exhale while you twist your torso to the right side until your arms are parallel with the floor. Pull your belly button in and squeeze, then slowly move back to the starting position. Repeat on the left side and continue to repeat both sides for 20-30 seconds.
To perform a mountain climber, start in a plank position with arms and legs long. Beginning in a solid plank is the key to proper form and good results in the Mountain Climber. Keep your abs pulled in and your body straight. Squeeze your glutes and pull your shoulders away from your ears. Pull your right knee into your chest. As the knee draws to the chest, pull your abs in even tighter to be sure your body doesn’t sag or come out of its plank position. Quickly switch and pull the left knee in. At the same time, you push your right leg back, pull your left knee in to the chest using the same form. Continue to switch knees. Pull the knees in right, left, right, left—always switching simultaneously so that you are using a “running” motion. As you begin to move more quickly be in constant awareness of your body position and be sure to keep a straight line in your spine and don’t let your head droop. Core body stability is crucial. Start with a slow pace and do 1 or 2 sets of 8 to 10 repetitions. Once you’re comfortable you can increase the number of sets and reps.
To perform a scissor kick, lie with your back into the floor and your arms extended to the sides with your palms facing down. With a slight bend in your knees, lift your legs so that your heels are 6 inches off the ground. Lift your left leg up to about a 45-degree angle while your right leg is still lowered until your heel is about 2-3 inches from the ground. Switch movements by raising your right leg while lowering your left leg. Squeeze your midsection and focus on your breathing as you perform 2 sets of 12 to 20 repetitions. Each leg scissoring counts as one rep. As you get stronger, add a third set.
To perform a side plank, lie on your side with your legs straight and resting on one elbow. Lift your hips so your body is straight. Reach up to the ceiling with your free arm for balance. Hold this position for about 15-20 seconds and then roll over and repeat. Do not hold your breath! Place your fingers on your abs nearest the floor when doing this exercise to feel how hard they are working. Begin by trying to hold the side plank for 15-20 second increments and increase the time as you get more comfortable.
These seven result-driven abdominal exercises can be performed almost anywhere! Aim to work your abs at least twice a week for the best results.
For added benefits, kick up your cardio. Adding a few 20 to 30-minute cardio sessions a week can help rev up your fat burning capability and will help your toned abs be even more noticeable. Go for a walk, hike or swim some laps; just get moving and try to stay active this holiday season. Your body will thank you!