Fitness

Abs Exercises Tips to Help You Make the Most of Your Core Workout

As long as you have some floor space—okay, and maybe a mat—you have all you need to start working your abs. And that’s important, since training your core, which includes the muscles around your spine, lower back, and hips, as well as your abdominal muscles, plays a huge role in improving your strength and mobility both during your workouts and in everyday life.

“Every movement you do—whether it’s walking, getting up, lying down, or whether you are in the gym or carrying your child—whatever it is, there is so much core involvement,” Noam Tamir, C.S.C.S., founder and CEO of TS Fitness in New York City, tells SELF. “So having a strong core and a functional core is really important just for quality of life.” Not only will core strength help you perform those movements more easily, but it’ll also help guard against pain in your back, hips, and knees, he says.

You don’t need to spend hours at the gym doing exercise after exercise to start seeing results either. In fact that can actually stall your progress (which is good news for anyone hoping to squeeze in a couple of episodes of Schitt’s Creek after the gym but before bed beckons).

Adding a few abs exercises into your routine can get the process going, but to really make the most of your abs workout, you have to train smarter—not necessarily longer or harder. Follow these tips below to make your abs workout work for you.

1. If crunches are your go-to abs exercise, consider these instead.

Think of an abs exercise, any abs exercise. Did your mind automatically go to the crunch? If it did, you’re not alone—many people believe crunches, and other exercises based off similar movement patterns, like the sit-up and the bicycle crunch, are the only way to train abs, Tony Gentilcore, C.S.C.S., founder of CORE in Brookline, Massachusetts, tells SELF.

The crunch is a spinal flexion exercise, meaning you are bending forward and extending backward, Tamir explains. Sure, that’ll train your rectus abdominus (the muscles that run along the front of your abdomen, which you probably consider your “abs muscles”), but it neglects the rest of your core.

“It’s just not a very functional way of training your core—we don’t just bend forward and backward. There are a lot of other motions we do in everyday life,” Gentilcore says. “If you do the same pattern over and over again, you open yourself up to overuse injuries and set yourself up for joint discomfort down the road.”

Your core can do more than crunch up, so train those muscles in a whole host of movement patterns. The movement patterns to add in? Ones that really work on improving your core’s stability. Think about anti-extension, where you resist arching your lower spine (like with planks); anti-rotation, where you prevent rotation at your hips and lower back (like with the Pallof press or bird-dog); and anti-lateral flexion, where you resist sideways bending of your spine (like with a single-arm farmer’s carry), says Tamir.

Once you’ve mastered those patterns, you can look to adding in other planes of motion, like rotational moves such as wood chops. You can sprinkle in some spinal flexion exercises like crunches, says Gentilcore—just make sure they are supplementing the exercises that work the other core movements and are not taking over your routine.

2. More is not better, so please, please stop training your abs every day.

You can get a good abs workout anywhere—you don’t need any special equipment, and the exercises are pretty user-friendly, even for beginners. And that’s just one reason people are tempted to work their abs way too much, says Gentilcore.

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