Have you ever scrolled through Instagram, found a picture of some fitness model’s ridiculously chiseled six-pack, and wondered how the hell her body looks like that? So, like, same. But Instagram never tells the full story — that model likely dedicates more time, money, and general joy to her look than you’d ever want or need to. Instead, a focus on strength over aesthetics means good news both for your health and your bank account. Because these core workouts you can do in your home will help you tone and build ab muscles you didn’t even realize you had — without the Flat Tummy Tea or monthly gym membership fee. All of the following moves target different sections of your abs, so do each one for 45 seconds and repeat the circuit 2-3 times — or just like, until your abs feel like they’re literally on fire.
1. Entire Core: Bodyweight Plank
Regular bodyweight planks get a lot of hate because they look pretty easy, but if you feel that way 45 seconds in, your form is probably wrong. When done right, planks activate your entire core from top to bottom, so you need to make sure you’re doing it correctly if you want to feel the burn in the right places. Start on your hands or your forearms with your elbows below your shoulders and your arms parallel to your body. Make sure you feel like you’re pulling your belly button in toward your spine and activating your back muscles under your armpits. Your spine should be straight, but make sure your hips aren’t sagging downward and your butt isn’t lifting upwards. Your back should be straight enough for someone to balance a glass of wine on top of it. I wouldn’t recommend trying it, though.
2. Lower Abs: Lying Leg Raises
Leg raises are ideal for your lower abs. If you’re not sure what that means, here’s five seconds of science for you: you have your first cousins, then you have your second cousins transverse abdominus, your rectus abdominus, and your external obliques. Those muscles make up your core, and leg raises tone the bottom half of them, which people tend to neglect. Lie flat on your back with your legs straight out in front of you, and keep your feet touching while you slowly lift your legs up to the ceiling until your butt is slightly off the floor. Then, lower them back down until they’re a few inches off the floor. Do as many reps as you can, and remember to breathe in between the lifts.
3. Obliques: Bicycle Crunches
Bicycle crunches target your oblique muscles, which can help increase your speed and stability. Lie on the floor with your hands behind your head and reach your right leg out as far as possible while crunching your left elbow to your right knee. You should feel like you’re twisting through your core, so the goal is really to get your shoulder off the ground as close to the knee as possible. Alternate from right to left, starting off SLOWLY and getting faster toward the end. But not super fast, otherwise you’re just using momentum and not your abs and this move will do nothing for you.
4. All Over Core Strength: Opposite Arm & Leg Extensions
You can do crunches and oblique bends all day long, but in order to tone the deeper muscles in your core, you need to do some stability work. Opposite arm and leg extensions might not feel like you’re working your abs at first, but with the right amount of control and balance, you’ll gain a ton of core strength, which will help all the other ab exercises seem a lot easier. Start on all fours with your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Then, engage your core while extending your left arm out in front of you and reaching your right leg behind you until both are parallel to the floor. Slowly bring them back to center and do the same to the other side. This move should be done slower than the rest, so don’t worry if you only get a few reps in 45 seconds.
5. Obliques, Upper & Lower Abs: Scissor Kicks
Scissor kicks are named appropriately considering the fact that you’ll probably want to stab yourself with a pair of scissors once you start doing these. With that being said, the pain is worth it because this move targets your obliques, your upper abs, and your lower abs at the same time. Start lying on your back, similar to your leg lifts position. But this time, alternate kicking each leg out in front of you, keeping your legs off the ground the entire time. Keep your core engaged and your back on the ground the entire time as you kick your feet like a six-year-old at her first swimming lesson. You’ll feel the burn pretty fast, but try not to let your feet hit the ground so you can really burn out the muscle.
Oh, and heads up: simple instincts like sneezing and laughing are gonna hurt like a bitch tomorrow. I mean, there’s a reason you’ve never seen Jillian Michaels crack a smile.