There are many ways you can get fit in midlife, and Lauren Aizen has written more about the different options here.
That’s because a strong core is the foundation upon which so many other things rest – whether that’s good posture that helps to prevent lower back pain developing from sitting at a desk all day, or the mobility and strength required to excel in sports and other activities ranging all the way from athletics to zumba.
The list of benefits of adding abs exercises to your gym repertoire and strengthening your core is almost endless.
Here is a selection of some of my favourite moves for beginner, intermediate and advanced gym-goers.
An all-time classic. Hold a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles while supporting yourself on your forearms and toes.
It’s also easy to scale – start at 20-second holds and work up towards 60 seconds. Make sure you engage your core by tilting your pelvis back slightly to flatten your lower back – a curved lower back is to be avoided
Lie down with your feet flat on the ground and knees bent. Place your hands on your thighs and slowly slide them up towards your knees as you sit up.
This does not have to be a large movement. Focus on closing the distance between your ribs and hips by lifting your shoulders off the floor while maintaining contact between the ground and your lower back.
Moving the top half up puts more emphasis on your upper abs. Start with sets of five and work towards 15.
Start in a straight arm press-up position with one knee up between your elbows and only the back foot on the floor. Jump the back foot off the floor and swap it with the front foot.
Focus on pulling your stomach muscles in throughout the movement to protect your spine and add more intensity. This is a great exercise for burning calories as well as developing your abs. Start with 30 seconds of mountain climbers and work towards 60 seconds.
The reverse crunch is even better than the standard crunch for strengthening your abs. The move keeps your muscles under tension for a longer period and hits the tricky-to-target lower abs particularly hard.
Lie down and raise your legs so your thighs are vertical and your knees are bent at a 90° angle. Contract your abs to bring your knees to your chest and raise your hips off the floor, then slowly lower your legs back to the star
It’s worth mastering the basic version of this exercise because it hits the oft-neglected obliques and often fitness classes throw people in at the deep end with more difficult variations. Sit on the floor with your knees bent and heels resting on the ground. Lean back so that your torso is at 45°.
Keep your chest up to stop you from hunching your back. Interlock your fingers and extend your arms in front of you. Turn your torso to the left or right, bringing your hands to touch the ground on that side. Rotate back to centre and then carry on to touch the opposite side. Once you’ve mastered the movement, make it more difficult by raising your heels off the floor and/or holding a weight.
The dead bug is a fine choice for beginners because it goes easy on your neck and back, which can’t be said for other abs exercises when they’re done incorrectly.
Lie on your back with your arms extended to the ceiling. Raise your legs and bend your knees until they’re at 90°. Lower your left arm towards the ground and simultaneously extend your right leg so both limbs end up parallel to the ground. Reverse the movements, then repeat with the other arm and leg.
Focus on making your movements slow and controlled, spending three seconds lowering and three seconds raising. Work for 30 to 60 seconds, or three sets of five reps on each side.
Lie down flat on your back on the ground. Keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them until they’re vertical or as close as you can get. Lower them and repeat.
To make it easier, tuck your knees in and start with your legs raised, then slowly lower them towards the floor. Once you master this, start keeping your legs straight when returning to the top position.
If you feel a niggle in your lower back then place your hands under your buttocks to help keep your lower back flat. Start with sets of five raises and work towards 15
Adopt the plank position with both forearms on the floor and your body forming a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Now push up to the raised plank position one hand at a time. Once you’re up, return to the standard plank position, again one hand at a time.
Repeat, changing the hand you lead with each time. The aim is to keep your hips as still as possible – if they start to move, increase the distance between your feet to make it easier. Aim for 30- to 60-second work periods.
Sometimes known as scissor kicks, this movement will certainly feel like it’s carving out your abs. Lie on your back and raise your legs so that they’re roughly 15cm above the ground. Keeping your legs straight throughout, move your legs up and down in a kicking motion, with the movement coming from your hips.
Go at a pace that’s comfortable and allows you to keep your legs off the ground for the duration, and make smooth and controlled movements. Work for between 30 and 60 seconds at a time.
We often neglect the muscles we can't see, especially with midsection training. This exercise works the inner core muscles.
Start lying on your back – the goal is to flatten your back or push it into the floor. Maintain this position throughout the whole movement. Bend your knees and place your feet on the floor. Begin by lifting your shoulders off the floor, and at the same time lift your knees and feet off the floor to a 90° angle.
While maintaining this position with your back pressed into the ground, start to rock back and forth. Start with 20 seconds to begin with. To make the exercise more challenging, you can extend the time, and also try increasing the lever length by straightening your legs and extending your arms overhead.
While to the untrained eye this looks easy, it is L on the abs. Start sitting on the floor with your legs together and extended. Place your palms on the ground with your fingers pointing forwards.
Brace your abs, glutes and legs and press through your palms to lift your body off the ground – you’re now the most uncomfortable L on the planet. Getting off the floor is an achievement in itself, but work towards holding the position for ten seconds.
Lie on your back, extend your legs and hold them just above the ground. Place your fingers lightly on your temples. Bring one knee up towards your chest and twist your torso so that the opposite elbow comes over towards it.
Your elbow and knee needn’t touch, but thinking of that connection between the two body parts is a good way to guide the movement of your torso. Lower both your torso and leg at the same time, then repeat on the opposite side. Keep the movement continuous and smooth for 30 to 60 seconds at a time.
Enjoy this ab-tastic workout!
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