Traditionally, abs are the coda at the end of a workout, those last five minutes you dedicate to crunches, situps, and planks. Let’s rethink that.
“Your workout time is precious and traditional abs exercises are an ineffective way of burning fat and building muscle given the limited number of muscles recruited and the low level of muscular overload,” says Brynn Putnam, founder of NYC’s high-intensity Refine Method.
Instead, Putnam recommends total body movements that work mutiple muscles at once. “You’ll soon find that every exercise is a core exercise if you are working with enough resistance so your core muscles must stabilize your spine to allow your arms and legs to produce force,” she says. Suddenly, your 20-minute “ab” workout becomes a worthy sub for a full workout when time is tight.
Complete the following five exercises, one minute each, back to back and repeat for four rounds, resting only if you absolutely have to.
Rotating ball slams
“By turning your shoulders without moving your hips, you’ll feel your abs working overtime,” says Putnam. Grab a soft medicine ball or slam ball in both hands. Stand with soft knees and braced abs (belly-button pulled in). Quickly rotate your upper body 90 degrees, bringing the ball overhead and slamming it into the floor, all in one fluid motion. Squat to pick up the ball and repeat quickly to the opposite side. Continue alternating for time.
Reverse lunge with halo
Moving a weight overhead while creating instability in your lower body gets the core firing in a big way. Stand holding a kettlebell goblet style in front of your chest. Step one foot back to lower into a lunge. Step forward, soften your knees, and halo the kettlebell around your head. Switch sides and repeat, changing the direction of the kettlebell halo as well. Keep going for time.
Stand tall, hinge at the hips to place the feet on the floor, and walk your hands out as far as you can, passing plank position, while keeping your back strong and your hips up. Walk your hands back in and repeat. “The farther away your hands get from your body, the more you have to use your abs to prevent your hips from dropping,” says Putnam.
Squat to reverse wood chop
Start with feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball at chest height in both hands. Squat deeply, bringing the ball alongside one hip. As you stand, raise the medicine ball out in front of you and up diagonally so it’s over your opposite shoulder. Continue squatting and reverse-chopping to one side for 30 seconds, then switch sides.
Lugging around an off-set weight forces the core to stabilize to keep your body upright. Grab a heavy kettlebell, up to half your body weight (or more). Carry it in one hand alongside your body, maintaining square shoulders, as you walk around the gym for 30 seconds. Switch hands and pace around for another 30 seconds.