RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Let’s admit it, we all want tight abs. And we’re all convinced we don’t have time to work on them. So we went to Jessica Matthews, continuing education coordinator for the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and an ACE-certified personal trainer, to find ways buff up that six-pack just about anywhere, anytime. And it turns out you don’t need fancy gym equipment or even easy at-home props like stability balls to strengthen your core. Check out Matthews’ step-by-step guide to working every major core muscle group.
• Activate your underlying core muscles. Isolating and exercising the deep, hidden abdominal muscles should be your first step toward boosting ab strength, according to Matthews. It’s a matter of getting those fibers to work as a team. “You need to reeducate the muscle pathways so all of your core muscles fire properly and work well together once you start doing more traditional ab movements.” To do that:
Exercise 1: Contract Your Core. Matthews suggests beginning with Pilates-like exercises that involve “hallowing out” your stomach. These are exercises that can be done while sitting—whether at your desk or in front of the TV. Start by drawing in your belly button, pulling it back and toward your spine. Hold each contraction for about 2 seconds, release, and repeat 10 times. Work toward 2 sets of 10 repetitions with 10 to 15 seconds of rest between each one.
Exercise 2: Sneaky Kegels. Pelvic-floor contractions, which firm the muscles deep below the lower abs, are a very subtle movement so no one needs to know your doing them. To locate the muscles you want to work, practice stopping the flow of urine while in the bathroom. Then, while in line at the bank or waiting at a stoplight, contract and relax these muscles, working up to performing around 30 contractions every day.