Yoga tends to get a bad reputation because people think it’s all about shit like finding your breath and inhaling good vibes. While many types of traditional yoga practices are based on mindfulness and spiritual mantras, yoga is also a killer ab workout if you’re doing it right. These poses are legit and offer a ton of core strength. I mean, there’s a reason you can’t hold them for long before collapsing onto your mat. Start with these six moves if you want to strengthen your core and tone your abs without doing any bullshit crunches.
1. Boat Pose
Boat pose is amazing for your entire core because it works the muscles in your upper and lower abs at the same time. Start by sitting on the floor with your legs straight in front of you. Then, press your hands on the floor behind your hips and lift your legs off the floor, leaning back slightly and lifting your hands in front of you. Your tailbone should now be on the ground with your legs and arms forward in the same direction. You can either hold it there for maximum time, or hold it for a few beats, release, and then repeat for reps (10-12 should do it).
Feel free to bend your knees at first if you’re not able to extend them fully.
2. Warrior Three
It might sound weird to do an ab exercise while standing up, but the whole point of the warrior three is to mess with your balance by standing on one foot, and then stabilize yourself using your core. Start standing up with your feet hip-distance apart and your arms at your sides. Then, turn to your left and step your feet wide, bending your right knee over your right ankle. Then, press your weight into your right foot and lift your left leg out behind you while your arms extend out in front of you. If it feels wobbly or awkward to be on one foot, that’s the point. Engage your abs and squeeze tight to stabilize yourself for as long as you can—at least 30 seconds before switching legs. If you’re feeling really saucy, throw in some one-legged squats with the supporting leg.
Keeping your arms in tight is a (slightly) easier modification.
3. Side Plank
Side planks are super basic, but there’s a reason you do them in every yoga, pilates, and bootcamp class: they do the trick. The idea of the side plank is to stack your feet on one side of you while your forearm is on the ground and your hips are lifted. You want to engage your oblique muscles, which are the sides of your abs that give your tummy that toned shape when you wear a crop top. Hold the pose on each side of your body for 30 seconds and remember to keep your hips square and lifted the whole time. The other option is to support yourself with a fully-extended arm, which takes a little heat off your abs but adds an additional balance component—so, still good for your core.
Stacking your feet is standard, but staggering them like this is a less-difficult modifier.
4. Chair Pose
Chair pose tends to feel like a leg workout (and it def is), but if you’re doing it right and taking your time, you can majorly feel this in your core too and it’s great for your abs. Standing hip-distance apart with your arms straight over your head, sit down into a mini squat without moving your arms at all. Bring your hips as low as you can and engage your core muscles so that you don’t lean too far forward. Take deep breaths and hold the pose for a minute if you can. If you feel it more in your back than your abs, it’s ok—no one will know that you had temporary amnesisa and forgot that the core means more than just your abs.
Keep your weight in your heels, even lifting your toes to remind yourself if need be.
5. One-Legged Downward Dog
Most people think downward dog is just a stretch for your calves and shoulders, but by adding a variation of standing on one leg, you need to work to stabilize your body by engaging your abs. Starting on your hands and knees, stretch your elbows and relax your upper back. Put your hands down on the mat and tuck your toes, lifting your knees off the floor. Press the floor away from you as you lift your butt toward the ceiling, and then lift one leg off the floor, keeping tension in your abs the whole time. Hold for 30 seconds on one leg and then switch to the other. Ideally you get your leg up and in-line with your body, but baby steps.
The more you practice, the higher you’ll be able to reach.
6. Elevated Plank
Planks are basic af and sound boring, but by elevating your feet onto a higher surface, (like a yoga block or a bench) you can get a deeper burn in your abs and really engage all your muscles at once. You can also use a bosu ball or a medicine ball if you really know what you’re doing and want the extra challenge. The idea is to have your feet elevated behind you and your body in one straight line. Try to think about pulling your belly button toward your spine and slightly lifting your butt, making sure your spine stays straight the entire time. The burn will kick in pretty quickly but that just means you’re doing it right, so stop whining. Start with 30 seconds and work up to a minute+.
Just like with side planks, dropping to your forearms puts more stress on your abs, but is also more stable.
Abs have been a hot topic for a while now, so let’s talk about them: what they are, how to get them, and like, if we even want them. (The answer to that last question is an obvious yes.) Getting abs became trendy in the early 2000’s around the time when people started to realize they wanted J.Lo’s six pack instead of Mary-Kate Olsen’s emaciated rib cage. Then, the ab crack suddenly became the new thigh gap of the internet and we started Googling shit like “Khloé Kardashian workout routine.” All of this important history brings us to today, where we’re left staring at our SoulCycle instructor’s chiseled stomach and wondering how many calories were in that bagel we ate earlier. If you’re looking for some real info, it’s time to get some facts straight. Having good abs is more than just a flat tummy—as Meek Mill once said, there’s levels to this shit. Meaning, there are a lot of different parts of your abs and you can’t just do one exercise to tone all of them. So here’s the deal with all your various ab muscles and what exercises you need to do to get amazing abs all over.
That Line Down the Middle
What is it? You may know this line down the middle of the stomach area as an ab crack, which is unfortunately not a drug you can take to get abs. But if our dealer was selling that, we’d save so much on groceries. Anyway. The ab crack isn’t actually a muscle and so it doesn’t get a real name, but the best way to get it is by having good genes and doing basic toning exercises. Genes are a huge part of it, and some people can have like, no body fat and a strong core, and still not have that line. We’re all built differently, so let’s work with what we’ve got.
How do I get it? Planks. It may sound basic AF, but planks are an amazing way to target the entire front of your core, so stop overthinking fancy and complex exercises and start planking. If you’re a beginner, start on your hands, but starting on your elbows really targets the muscles better. Basically, you want to start face down with your forearms on the floor and your knees raised up so that only your toes and arms are touching the ground. Make sure you’re contracting your abs and not sticking your butt in the air, or else you’re literally doing nothing. Also, make sure to keep your back as flat as possible the whole time. Hold for anywhere from 30 seconds to two full minutes. If you’re respectively psychotic and you’re looking for an added challenge, try doing your plank in a TRX suspension trainer at your gym—if you don’t even know what that is, it’s best to stick to the regular planks for now.
Those Side Lines
What are they? The “side lines” you see all over Instagram during bikini season (probably while fake laughing on an inflatable swan in East Hampton), are actually called your obliques. Obliques are the most superficial muscle out of the muscles in your abdomen, which means they look hot but actually don’t help you that much in terms of being strong as fuck. But who cares about strength? They’ll look hot in your Instagram pics.
For the ladies asking where I got these pants from, they are just Nike tech fleece ones. I just pulled them up at the bottom. Pretty sure they are in all of the shops at the moment?? I don’t normally talk about where my clothes are from because I don’t do sponsored posts and I don’t want you ladies thinking that’s what I’m about. I only mentioned this one because I noticed all the girls asking and I KNOW how hard it is to find good track pants!! Have a good day ladies www.kaylaitsines.com/app
How do I get them? Russian Twists. There are tons of exercises that target your obliques (others include bicycles and side planks), but Russian twists are really the most effective way to tone those side muscles that look so good in a crop top or one of those slutty cut-out one pieces. Start by sitting on the floor with a weight in your hand (think anything from 8 lb to 15) and your feet slightly raised off the ground. Your legs should be bent at your knees and your upper body should be elevated to create a folding V shape with your legs. Move the weight from one side of your body to the other, ideally touching the weight to the ground on each side of you during every rep. Do this for 30 seconds to a minute, then rest for a few seconds and repeat again. It might hurt when you laugh tomorrow, but in that case I guess it’s a good thing we have permanent RBF.
That V-Shape At The Bottom
What is it? No one would ever comment on an Instagram pic to compliment someone’s lower abs, but like, why not? That shit is really hard to achieve and honestly I could use a post-workout snack just thinking about all that work. Working your lower abs is super important even if you don’t necessarily want chiseled abs because it will help eliminate love handles in the process (but obviously stop eating those double-stuffed Oreos first.)
How do I get it? Well first before anybody asks, you do NOT need to become a man (or Terry Crews) to get the V-cut thing; that was just the best (read: hottest) picture I could find. Anywho. Leg raises. This move looks super easy when you see someone doing it, but once you start, you’ll be crying pretty fast. Lying on the floor, place your legs straight out in front of you and your hands on the ground or under your lower back if you’re prone to lower back pain. Lift your legs up, keeping them as straight as possible with your knees slightly bent until they make a 90-degree angle with the floor. Hold the contraction at the top for the second, then SLOWLY lower your legs down to the floor in front of you. You’ll want to make sure you use a mat to protect your tailbone and stop fucking holding your breath. Seriously, what is it with people not breathing while working their abs? You’re not underwater and people around you are starting to get worried.
Inner Core Muscles
What are they? The workouts we’ve discussed so far will all help tone your abs, but as we mentioned earlier, your core muscles go much deeper than you realize, so you should prob be working those inner layers too. A lot of people get caught up in working the area around their stomachs, but they don’t realize that most of your core stability comes from your lumbar spine and lower back area, so try hitting those muscles too if you care about really strengthening your entire core area.
How do I get them? Superman lifts. Everyone has these inner core muscles, but they’re pretty weak if you don’t work to strengthen them, and Superman lifts are the best way. Lie face down on your stomach with your arms and legs extended and keep your neck in a neutral position. Then, keeping them straight and your torso tight, lift your arms and legs toward the ceiling, arching your back and getting your hands and feet like, five inches off the floor. Hold for a couple seconds at the top and then lower back down. If you’re doing it right, you’ll feel like an idiot. Try doing 10-15 reps before
the embarrassment takes over resting and then repeating again.
I know it sucks to spend extra time at the gym to do some work that’s low-key good for you, but you stuck around last week for like, 15 minutes to find good selfie lighting, so we’re gonna assume you have the time.