8 Moves for a Strong Core — No Crunches Necessary
If nights spent crunching away while watching men's figure skating in Sochi haven't helped you land those six-pack abs, there's something you need to cut out of the routine. (The dancing on ice can actually stay.) But relying on moves like crunches and sit ups to firm your middle isn't effective. "People tend to think that the core only consists of the abs or 'six pack,' but there are so many other muscles that run up and down the back, around the waist and hips and down the thighs that you need to target as well," says Chris Uy, a personal trainer at Sports Club/LA in New York City. "That's why you need moves with rotations and twists that work the entire core. Sit ups and crunches won't cut it." We tapped Uy for the eight best moves that will get you on the way to a tighter, stronger center — Sochi viewing optional.
1. PLANK Lie face down leaning on elbows and forearms with chest elevated off the floor. Lift knees and then hips off the floor so you end up on only your toes, elbows and forearms. Hands can be open with palms on the floor or in a fist. Keep legs, back, neck and head straight. Start with a 10 second hold, then 20, then 30, and so forth up to one minute. Work your way up to two sets of one minute each. "With holding moves, don't forget to breathe," says Uy. "Proper breathing also works the deeper core muscles."
2. HIP BRIDGE
Lie face up on back with arms at sides, knees bent at 90 degrees with feet hip width apart. Roll the tailbone up off the floor and continue to raise hips towards the ceiling until your body is straight from knees to shoulders. Hold for two to three seconds, then slowly return to start position by lowering your hips to the floor and repeat. Perform two round of 15 reps each, with 30 seconds of rest in between. And don't rush the reps, advises Uy. "The core was designed to hold your body up for the day, so train your body to be able to hold and stabilize when needed."
3. OPPOSITE REACH
Begin on hands and knees, making sure hands are directly under the shoulders and knees directly under hips. Lift and straighten one leg off the floor. Lift, straighten, and reach forward with the arm on the opposite side of your body at the same time. Hold for two to three seconds, maintaining balance, then switch arm and leg. Your back, head and neck remain straight or neutral. Perform two rounds of 15 reps each, resting for 30 seconds in between.
4. SIDE PLANK
Lie on one side leaning on your elbow and forearm with hand open with palm on the floor or in a fist. Elevate the hip off the floor so you end up on the side of your foot, elbow and forearm only. Keep your legs, back, neck and head straight. Start with a 10 second hold, then 20, and then 30 seconds. Be sure to keep breathing. Work your way up to two sets of 30 seconds on each side.
Lie face down on stomach with arms reaching forward. Elevate arms, chest, legs and thighs off the floor and hold for two to three seconds, return to start position and repeat. Perform two rounds of 15 reps each.
6. STATIC PUSH UP
Start in push-up position, lifting one foot off the floor and bring that knee towards your elbow on the same side of the body. Return to start push-up position and repeat with the other leg. Perform 10 repetitions on each side for two sets. Be sure to breath with every repetition. Work your way to bringing knee to the elbow on the opposite side of body.
7. RUSSIAN TWIST
Sit on the floor with knees bent, feet flat on the floor and hip width apart. Clasp hands in front of you and lean backwards. Turn your shoulders and reach towards the floor on one side and then rotate to the other side, keeping feet on the floor. Repeat back and forth, this is one rep. Perform 2 sets of 15 repetitions. For a bigger challenge, work your way up to holding something like a medicine ball or dumbbell while twisting.
8. SINGLE LEG TOE TOUCH
Stand and balance on one foot. Maintaining a straight back — bending mainly at the hips but bending the knee of your standing leg as needed — reach down and touch the toe on standing leg with the hand on the opposite side of the body. Then stand back up. (So, if you're standing on your left leg, the right arm is going to touch it.) Complete 15 reps on one side, maintaining balance on one leg for the whole set. Repeat on the other leg using the other hand to reach across the body. Work your way up to two sets on each side.