Core exercises are a hugely important part of any well-rounded fitness regimen, but apart from the occasional sit up, few people pay enough attention to strengthening this important area of of body.
“Six pack abs” get all the glory, but your core is actually comprised of the muscles in your abdomen, pelvis, lower back and hips. As you strengthen your core, not only will all those very important muscles look and feel more toned, but your balance and stability will improve as well.
A strong core can help you avoid injury, too. The muscles that make up your core work together to keep your body upright and stable as you move, whether you’re walking, running or just sitting at your desk. And the stronger your core, the less likely you are to suffer from joint pain or damage, plus you’ll have better posture, which helps prevent lower back pain.
Those flatter abs we are all hoping to have by the time bikini season rolls around? That won’t happen without core exercises. The good news is that an effective core workout doesn’t call for any special equipment or a massive time commitment.
The workout structure
For this 30-day plan, we’ve broken up the moves so that every day you’re gaining strength and toning the midsection while increasing the difficulty of the exercises. Follow along with the plan and by the time May arrives you should be able to notice a difference in your midsection! For more of a challenge, we’ve added in one progressive exercise in each routine. This move is meant to be built upon as the month progresses, slowly increasing the intensity as the month goes on. We’ve also added in cardio a couple of days a week, which helps burn calories and aids in shedding fat around your midsection. You can do any cardio you’d like: A 30-minute walk, run, bike or any cardio equipment of your choosing.
A 30-day abdominal routine
Download your printable calendar here. Hang the calendar on your fridge, or keep it in your purse or car, for easy reference. Remember, this is just a sample of how you can structure your workouts. The calendar below is a suggested schedule, but it can be modified based on the time you have each day, so adjust your work days and rest days as needed.
Day 1: Floor Series 1
Day 2: Cardio
Day 3: Plank Series 1
Day 4: Rest
Day 5: Floor Series 1
Day 6: Plank Series 1
Day 7: Rest
Day 8: Standing Series 1
Day 9: Cardio
Day 10: Floor Series 2
Day 11: Rest
Day 12: Plank Series 2
Day 13: Standing Series 2
Day 14: Rest
Day 15: Cardio
Day 16: Floor Series 2, Plank Series 2
Day 17: Standing Series 2
Day 18: Rest
Day 19: Floor Series 3
Day 20: Plank Series 3
Day 21: Rest
Day 22: Standing Series 3
Day 23: Cardio
Day 24: All Ab Series 3
Day 25: Rest
Day 26: All Ab Series 3
Day 27: Cardio
Day 28: All Ab Series 3
Day 29: Rest
Day 30: All Ab Series 3
Floor Series 1
Lying on your back on a mat, bend your knees and place your feet flat on the ground. Make sure your feet are open as wide as your hips. Reach your arms down towards your feet. Take a deep breath. As your stomach rises, feel your lower back arch slightly off of the ground. Then exhale as you tilt your pelvis and press your lower back into the ground. Pull your navel in towards your spine as if you’re zipping into a tight pair of pants. Release and repeat 10 times.
Pilates Ab Crunch
Come into the pelvic tilt position from the exercise above. From this tilted position with your lower back pressed into the ground, place your hands behind your head. Exhale as you curl up with your head, neck, and chest. Pretend that you’re holding an egg in between your chin and your chest that you don’t want to crack. Then gently pulse upwards 10 times, and rest.
To begin, lie on your back with your head resting on the floor. Keep your arms straight at your sides with your palms on the floor and bend your knees so your heels are under your knees. Slowly raise your hips in the direction of the ceiling by curling up your lower back, middle back, and then upper back. Once you’re up in the air, take a deep breathe in. Then, exhale as you slowly roll down one vertebra at a time. Lower your hips and repeat the exercise 10 times.
Ab Curl Hollow Hold
*This is the progressive move. At 10 reps per workout, the hold times add up and increase the difficulty of this pose!
Lying flat on your back, start with your arms and legs reaching straight up towards the ceiling. Then, exhale as you pull your navel in towards your spine, and slowly lower the arms behind you and the legs in front of you. Lower the arms and legs as low as you can without allowing your lower back to arch. Hold this for 5 seconds, then come back to the starting position. Repeat 10 times.
Floor Series 2: Hold the ab curl for 10 seconds each
Floor Series 3: Holding the ab curl for 15 seconds each
*This is the progressive move. At 4 reps per workout, you’ll be gearing up for almost 3 minutes worth of planks in your final Series 3!
A plank is done in a similar position as a push up, except you are placing you’re holding yourself upright instead of lowering down. Place your shoulders over your wrists, and pull your abs in as you tuck your toes under to reach your heels towards the back of the room. Make sure your butt isn’t sticking out in the air in order to have proper posture. Pull your navel in towards your spine, and breathe here for 10 seconds. Then repeat 5 times.
Plank Series 2: Hold plank for 25 seconds
Plank Series 3: Hold plank for 40 seconds
From a plank position, turn your body to the left and reach your left arm up in the air. Stack your feet on top of each other, and pull your right side up away from the ground to work the entire right side of your body. Come back to plank, and repeat 10 times and then switch sides.
Starting in a plank position, lower down onto your right forearm and then your left forearm. Now you’re in a forearm plank. Then, press your right hand down and then your left hand to press you back up into a plank. Repeat this 5 times with your right hand leading, and then 5 times with your left hand leading.
Standing Side Crunch
Work the side of your core and waist while standing with this exercise. Place your hands on your head with the elbows wide and open the feet as wide as the hips. Lift your left knee out to the side and up and crunch the left elbow down towards the left knee. You’ll feel a crunch on the left side waist. Repeat this 10 times, and then switch to the right.
Standing Diagonal Cross
Work the internal and external obliques in this exercise as you are standing. Reach the arms up together to the left as you step the right foot out to the right. Then cross the right knee towards the midline of the body and bring the arms down to meet the right knee. Touch the knee and then return the arms and foot back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times, and then switch sides.
*This is the progressive move. Repeating these squat holds for 10 reps per workout will really get the legs burning, but for this core workout we are working to get the abs pulled in and burning as well. Pull the navel in to the spine to support the lower back and contract your core in every squat.
This exercise works the quads, hamstrings, and glutes. Stand with your feet as wide as your shoulders, toes pointing forward. Pull your navel in towards your spine, and then sit back by bending at your knees and reaching your glutes back as if you’re sitting in a chair. Press down through your heels and then stand back up. Repeat this 10x. For a modification, perform this only halfway down.