All these exercises strengthen butts and legs at the same, but most importantly, without a strong core (which, in pilates, we refer to as The Powerhouse), your shoulder and hips will tighten as a result of bearing the brunt weight of your body.
These exercises are typically performed in a systematic order of the classical pilates to be more effective. Before taking on any of these exercises, make sure you’ve already exercised. For example, jogging, bicycling, Soulcycle, etc. would all work. This is to ensure that your muscles and joints are supple, to sustain and keep the form of these exercises with consistency.
Single Legs Kicks
Setup: Lie flat on your stomach, nose to the mat, and place your palms in line with your ears. Engage your abs, press the floor away with your palms into straight arms, lift your chest up and stretch it forward, bending the elbows just under your shoulders, with each hand in a fist to anchor you, and your head in line with your spine, eyes leveled.
Movement: Kick the heel of your foot to your bottom in a dynamic motion like “kick kick” and switch, “kick kick” and switch. As you kick your heels, keep your hips and butt stable by pressing the hip flexors to that mat, zip the inner thighs, and keep the knees together. Engage your glutes, and kick for 3 sets. Do not let your booty pop up, hence why you press the hips to the mat. Be mindful not to let your lower back collapse either, which is why your abs must be engaged with a pull in and up.
Modifications: Lower your abs down to the mat with your chest up and forward, with your elbows slightly forward, and your hands in a fist in line with your elbows, and kick your heels to your bottom.
Double Leg Kick
The double leg kick is the next progression after double kicks.
Setup: Remain flat on your abs after the single leg kicks, with your chest down, on the right side of the face on the mat. Keep your neck long, and stack the palms on top of each other in the small of your back, ideally in the mid back close to the shoulder blades.
Movement: Kick the heels of your feet to your butt, 1-2-3. Lift the chest forward, then stretch and reach the arms behind you, over your butt and hands folded, to further open your chest. Then, turn your head to the left side of the face, lift and reach arms again, and repeat. Abs must be engaged, and legs stretched long when straight. Repeat 3 sets.
Modifications: If your shoulders or arms are tight, and it’s too difficult to stack them on top of your lower back, rest the back of your hands on top of your butt or on the mat when kicking your heels to the bottom, and lift your arms up in line with your hips when you lift your chest up and forward.
Leg Pull down
Setup: In a plank position, put your elbows and wrist right under your shoulders, with your legs straightened out, and the heels of your feet together, toes apart, navel to spine.
Movement: Pull navel to spine. Flex toes to rock back in a straight line, and point your toes to lengthen your whole frame forward. Keep pulling your navel to the spine, and resist the gravity of your back collapsing down into the joints by lifting back up to the sky. After 3 sets of repetitions, lift the right leg and rock back and forth and repeat on the left side.
Modifications: If balancing your upper body on your palms is too much pressure on the joints, bend the elbows and rock back and forth on elbows with hands in a fist. Just remember to resist the gravity of the body upwards. Imagine you’re balancing a tray with glass on it on your back, and don’t let it slip off while moving. You have to balance it by keeping your back straight and level.
Leg Pull Up
The leg pull up is the next profession from leg pull down.
Setup: Start by sitting on the mat, knees bent, feet flat on the mat, arms stretched behind in line with shoulders, and palms on the mat. Lift your hips up in line with your knees and straighten the legs in front in two steps, heels together and toes apart.
Movement: Engage your abs and lift your right leg up, pointing the toes. Do not scrunch your feet, reach them like you’re trying touch something in front of you, and maintain the height on of your hips as you lower the leg down the mat. Flexing, lift the left leg, reaching the toes, and repeat the same motion. Repeat for 3 sets.
Modifications: To modify this exercise, keep your hips up, bend your knees with your feet flat on the floor and your feet and knees together. Keeping your knees in line with your ankles, progress to extend the right leg straight up from and in line with the hips, and with both knees leveled in even height, lower the right leg straight down to the mat to the height of the left ankle. Lift it back up to the knee’s height, bend the knee, and switch to the left. Repeat the same exercise as the right leg. Repeat this in 3-5 sets.
Caution: This exercise is very challenging on the hips and shoulders, as you can stiffen up when locking your joints. The key to sustaining this exercise is to keep the heaviest parts of the trunk (i.e. chest and hips) up.
Images: Michele Paniz Photography
When it comes to choosing workouts, some exercises just seem obvious, like doing squats for a perky butt or planks for rock-hard abs. And don’t get me wrong, I’ll do squats and planks until they’re out of style. *BUT* I think it’s also important to work on the muscles we don’t often think about, especially as girls. We tend to think we just need a little toning and cardio here and there, but there are a lot of important muscles that we neglect at the gym, especially our upper body muscles. It’s time to address WTF to do about them. Here are some underrated upper body exercises and why you should be working them.
1. Chest Presses
Aside from a few modified push-ups as a warmup, most girls never think about working their chest muscles. I mean, the chest press seems like a guy’s exercise, and it can be super intimidating. What many women don’t realize is that your chest muscles just create a stronger upper body in general, which literally makes it easier to do basic activities, like opening doors and holding heavy bags. People also find that chest presses can even give yourself a little chest lift, so you can stop buying push-up bras. So start your upper body exercises with chest presses. Grab two dumbbells and lie flat on a bench with the weights at chest height and your elbows out toward your sides. Then, press the weights upward, keeping them over your chest the entire time, and bringing them back down after every rep and avoiding pushing with your shoulders.
2. Lying Back Extensions
People tend to do a lot of rowing and lat pulldowns to target back muscles, and these exercises are great, but we tend to forget about our back extensor muscles, which are located at the lower back. They’re super important for core engagement, stability, and avoiding injury. Doing lying back extensions will help you avoid hurting yourself at the gym, considering you basically use your back in any exercise, like even running or spinning. Lay out a mat and then lie on your stomach with your head facing the floor and your arms out over your head in a “Y” shape. Then, slowly lift your legs and arms off the floor, keeping only the area from your stomach to your thighs on the mat (if that’s too hard, leave your legs alone and just lift your upper body). Lower back down and then lift back up, feeling the tension in your lower back.
3. Inner Core Leg Lifts
We do a lot of ab movements around here, but there’s a major difference between your ab muscles and your core muscles. Most ab workouts, like bicycles and Russian twists, don’t target the transversus abdominis, which is the muscle that connects to our pelvic floor and internal organs. In order to strengthen these inner muscles, do inner core leg lifts. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent, and slowly lift your right foot off the floor, keeping your core engaged as you lower it back down. Then, do the same on the left, and switch back and forth, exhaling with each rep. These are supposed to be slow and controlled movements, so don’t worry if you’re not getting your heart rate up or sweating, but DO worry if you’re just kicking the ground without feeling it in your abs. Then you’re probs doing it wrong.
4. Lateral Raises
Toning your shoulder muscles will make your whole arm look more defined and just so much better, and the most ideal way is to work the front of the muscle and the side of it in one workout to tone every angle. The lateral deltoid, aka the side of your shoulder, is really what gives your arms a toned look, and it’s often neglected because people just don’t realize what a difference it makes. Standing up with a dumbbell in each with your palms facing your thighs, keep your elbows slightly bent and raise your arms to the side until the weight reaches shoulder height. Then, slowly lower the dumbbell back down to your thigh. Keep raising them up and down, and try not to bounce your legs to use momentum to lift them. The goal is to keep tension in your shoulders the whole time and not get any help from your lower body.
5. Single-Arm Planks
Obviously your abs aren’t a “forgotten about” muscle, but we often overlook the most basic functions of our core muscles, which include stability and balance. Upper body exercises like single-arm planks strengthen the core while testing your stability. By doing moves like these, you’ll notice that yoga poses get easier to hold, being in third position on a spin bike feels more natural, and other ab movements are just less painful. So basically, the single-arm plank is essentially a regular plank, but you only use one hand at a time. Duh. It’s easier to start with your hand centered in front of your chest, but try to work it back out to under your shoulder as you get stronger. The idea is to keep your body square to the ground without raising your hips on one side, and keep your core tight the entire time.
Images: Ayo Ogunseinde /Unsplash; Giphy (4), Pinterest (1),
I follow a lot of #fitspo type of social media accounts, and every now and then I’ll watch a workout clip on Instagram and literally bug out seeing what some of these girls can do with their bodies. I mean, no, I’m not talking about how cute their sponsored shaker cups look next to their butt-facing-forward mirror selfies. I’m talking about these crazy moves that require more balance and coordination than 99% of America can handle. Like, I work out regularly, but honestly my flexibility and balance are pretty shitty, and it’s something I’m trying to work on. Here are six exercises to improve balance and flexibility that I’m incorporating into my own routine . Please join me so I’m not the only one struggling through pistol squats at the gym.
1. Bosu Ball Split Squats
The bosu ball is meant to make any exercise harder, and that’s because it screws with your balance, making you use your own body to stay aligned throughout the movement. If you do split squats regularly, try adding the bosu and it’ll really help any imbalances you have in either leg. The idea is to prop one leg in a lunge on the bosu behind you, and then use your front leg to move up and down, pushing with your glutes throughout the movement. If you’re a newbie, you’ll probably start tipping over when you start, so just take your time and focus on grounding yourself with your front leg. If you feel like one side is easier than the other, that’s completely normal and it’s because we’re usually stronger on one side. That’s why we’re doing this. Once you master this, try putting the front leg on the bosu, because variety is the spice of
pulled muscles life.
2. Lunge Hip Flexor Stretch
This move looks like more of a stretch than a real exercise, but honestly it’s a must and it’ll help with other exercises. It helps with mobility, flexibility, and coordination, so you’d be missing out just by skipping it. Especially if you sit at a desk all day, this move is amazing for opening up your hips and relieving any tightness from sitting for so many hours. Start by placing your hands on the ground and stepping back with your right leg, like you’re stepping into a reverse lunge. Then, straighten out the back leg and feel the stretch in your hip flexors as your front leg bends in front of you. Hold for a few seconds before switching to the other leg.
3. Alternating Arm Plank
This one is harder than it looks, so again, TAKE YOUR TIME. No one has ever rushed you through a plank, and the stability aspect here is key. The idea is to hold a regular high plank, but alternate arms so that you only have one hand on the ground at a time. This move hits your shoulders, abs, and arms all at once, and it also ensures you’re not relying on one side of your body during other ab exercises. Remember to keep your hips as square as possible without swaying or lifting to one side. If this starts to feel like a side plank, take a break and start again.
4. Pistol Squat
Ugh, pistol squats. Ask any trainer and they’ll tell you this exercise is QUEEN of one-legged training. You’re basically putting all your bodyweight on one leg at a time and squatting with only that leg, so yeah, it’s hard. If you need to hold onto a bench or TRX straps at first, do it. In a standing position, raise one foot off the floor and descend into a squat. As you squat, try to extend your front leg forward without losing your balance. Then, get as low as you can before slowly rising up, straightening out your knee and driving through your heel. You should feel this in your glutes on the working side. Again, take your time and just focus on the balance part. The rep count doesn’t really matter here, so just try to do a few without falling over. You’ll go deeper, do more, and need less assistance as you get stronger.
5. Opposite Arm & Leg Raises
Contrary to its name, the opposite arm and leg raise is actually more about your core and torso region. You’re basically raising your right arm and your left leg at the same time while on all fours, so the goal is to keep the rest of your body as still as possible. You’ll need to keep your back flat and engage your core. Squeeze your abs while you slowly extend your arm and leg, and then take a second to look forward at your reaching arm before lowering down and switching sides. This should also help strengthen your back, so make sure not to arch your spine and ruin your form. Think about pulling your abs in before lifting, and then when you reach out, keep your arms and legs parallel to the floor. For extra credit, get off your knees and do this from a full plank. Good luck in advance, is all I have to say.
6. Standing Crunch With Clap
Balancing on one leg is already difficult AF, so adding in a crunch and an under-the-leg clap may take some patience. This move has two parts, so let’s discuss both. It’s kind of like tapping your stomach while rubbing your head. Takes a shit ton of coordination, is what I mean. Balance on one leg, keeping your other knee 90 degrees with your hands over your head. Then, crunch forward, bringing your hands under the raised leg for a little clap underneath. Bring your hands up and then back down for a few reps, and then switch to the other side. Also, try looking as happy as the girl in this GIF.
Images: Squarespace / Pexels; Giphy (5); Pinterest
I love spending $34 on a workout class as much as the next financially careless millennial, but honestly, you can get just as good of a workout by yourself in the gym or at home if you want to. Pilates classes are amazing because you have the help of a certified instructor, but if you know some of the basic moves, you can do them on your own without a room full of toned women in matching Outdoor Voices leggings. These six Pilates exercises are simple enough to do on your own, and you don’t need any fancy equipment to get a good workout. Add these moves into your regular workout routine to switch it up, or do all six together as a total Pilates circuit. Here are the moves for the Pilates bod you’ve always wanted.
1. Plank Rocks
Plank rocks are exactly what they sound like, but for some reason, they’re so much harder than holding a regular plank. The idea here is to start in a high plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your core engaged. Then, using the tiniest motion from your toes to your shoulders, rock your body back and forth, feeling the burn in your abs the whole time. This is a small, controlled movement, so your body should only be moving a couple inches toward your hands, and then a couple inches back toward your heels. Think about drawing your belly button in toward your spine and keeping your butt low the whole time. Don’t cheat yourself.
2. Glute Bridges
This is one of those Pilates exercises that you probably didn’t even know was from Pilates. The glute bride is a simple move, but if you’re doing it right, you’ll feel the burn in your butt and hamstrings pretty quickly. Start lying on your back with your legs hip-width apart, your knees bent, and your feet flat on the floor. You can keep your hands on the floor next to you, or raise them toward the sky to make it harder. Then, keeping your feet on the ground, lift your pelvis off the floor and squeeze your butt at the top, holding for a second before lowering down to the ground. If you’re advanced, you can also do this with one leg off the floor to really target each part of your butt separately.
3. The Hundred
This looks like a standard boat pose, but it’s actually so much harder because the idea is to pulse your hands, literally, a hundred times. Hence the name. This move is a Pilates staple because it works your abs and tests your stability and endurance at the same time. The Hundred refers to the 100 beats you hold the pose for, but if you’re a beginner, start with 50 and we won’t tell on you. Start in a boat pose with your tail bone and lower back on the floor and your legs and upper body elevated. Then, keep your arms out toward your sides and pulse up and down, feeling it in your core. FYI: be careful with your head placement on this one. You want to keep your chin slightly tucked, as if you’re holding a tennis ball on your chest. Don’t start looking up and taking the pressure off of your core.
4. Kneeling Leg Lifts
This exercise is literally the reason Pilates instructors have the perkiest butts ever. Well, maybe also genetics and years of experience, but you get the point. It works. Kneeling leg lifts are one of the only lower body moves that are just as effective without any weights, so the key is to think about activating your glutes and squeezing on each rep instead of just kicking around by using momentum. Keeping your weight on your forearms and knees, lift one leg straight up behind you in a 90-degree angle so your heel is facing towards the ceiling. Squeeze your butt cheek at the top each time, and then switch to the other leg after 10 reps. You can also hold for a few seconds at the end or add a pulse.
5. Kneeling Side Leg Twists
The kneeling side leg twist sounds complicated, but you’re basically working three muscle groups in one movement: abs, arms, and legs. AKA, it’s a winner. Kneel on the right leg with your left leg extended out to the side, and keep your right arm supporting you with your palm on the floor under your right shoulder. Lift your leg and your left arm up to the sky, and then, as you lower your leg back to the mat, thread your left arm under your waist to twist toward the floor. You want to make sure that when you twist your torso, you’re essentially crunching your oblique with the help of your arm. After 30 seconds to a minute, switch to the other side.
6. The Teaser
IDK why this is called the teaser, but Pilates teachers love it, and it’s because it literally annihilates your core. Doesn’t sound like a tease to me. Start by lying on the ground with your knees bent and your feet on the floor. Then, reach out your arms and lift your legs off the floor in a 90-degree angle. Lift your upper body off of the floor using your abs, and then straighten out your legs at the top. Think about lifting your head and shoulders up in one movement, trying to create a V-shape with your torso and legs. Then, roll back onto your back and bend your knees again. Aim for 15 reps.
Images: Form, Unsplash (1), Giphy (5), Pinterest (1)
Everyone is obsessed with butt and arm workouts these days, but it feels like we’re missing some main body parts here. There’s nothing worse than having back fat and love handles, so it’s important that, in addition to working other body parts, you also do back strengthening exercises that will tone your back, slim your waist, and give you amazing posture. This workout targets the back, waist, and a little bit of the abs, so you can look amazing as the layers start coming off for summer. And just feel good in general. Here’s the back workout.
1. Lying Back Extensions
This move is both a warm-up and an actual exercise. It serves as a lower back workout, which is important because your lower back is usually a sensitive area and can get injured pretty easily, so it’s best to do these before you do any sort of back workout or waist- and ab-focused exercises. Lay out a mat and then lie on your stomach with your head facing the floor and your arms out over your head in a “Y” shape. Then, slowly lift your legs and arms off the floor, keeping only the area from your stomach to your thighs on the mat (if that’s too hard, leave your legs alone and just lift your upper body). Lower back down and then lift back up for 10 reps, feeling the tension in your lower back each time.
2. Rowing Machine
The rowing erg is a cardio machine, but it’s totally different than the treadmill or StairMaster because you’re using your entire bodyweight to pull the machine toward you. It’s specifically a great back workout that also tones your abs, and you’re burning calories at the same time. Set the machine to the “meters” setting and put it on a resistance between 6 and 10, depending on if you’ve used the rowing machine before or not. Hold onto the handles and put your feet in the straps, and then row the handles toward your chest, using your legs to push off the front surface and your back to bring the handle in. Think legs, then core, then arms. Try rowing for 250 meters straight, keeping good posture and your core engaged the whole time. This should get your heart rate up pretty quickly.
3. TRX Rows
There are so many different rowing exercises you can do, but I prefer TRX rows to the machine rows or dumbbell rows because the TRX straps ensure that you’re keeping constant tension in your back muscles throughout the exercise to give you a really good back workout. If you don’t have a TRX in your gym, you can use the cables to get the same effect. The idea is to hold onto the TRX straps with each hand and walk your feet inward, creating a diagonal line with your body. Note that the farther you move in, the harder it will be. Once you find a position that is challenging enough, hang with your arms straight, and then slowly row the straps in toward your armpits, squeezing at the top. If it’s too hard, take a few steps back. Do 15 reps total.
4. Russian Twists
I know Russia’s a sensitive topic lately, but this exercise has nothing to do with the country. Or at least, I don’t think it does. The Russian twist is actually an oblique exercise, but the muscles it targets are right under your love handles, so it’s a great waist slimming move. Grab a dumbbell or kettlebell, and keep it hovering over your chest, but not pressing into your body. Start by sitting down on the floor and placing your feet out in front of you, raised a few inches above the ground. Your knees should be slightly bent and your torso should be elevated off the ground, making a V-shape with your thighs. Holding the weight with both hands, move it from one side of you to the other, tapping the ground next to you each time. Aim for 20 reps.
5. Lat Pulldowns
This is the one exercise in this workout that requires a weights machine, but it’s worth it because this back exercise is amazing for developing good posture and making your waist look more narrow. The lat pulldown machine looks intimidating, but it’s really simple. This machine works the Latissimus Dorsi muscle, which basically gives your whole torso its shape. Play around with the weight to see what feels good for you, and then grip the bar with both hands and sit down, facing the machine. Pull down on the bar while squeezing your back and bring the bar to chest level, aiming for your collar bone. Squeeze your back for a second and then let go of the tension to bring the bar back up, which should feel like you’re stretching your arms. Do 10 reps.
6. Plank Cross Reaches
This move looks simple, but if you’re engaging your core and keeping your hips square the whole time, you should really feel these in your oblique, hip, and lower back regions. Start in a high plank with your feet behind you, keeping them a little wider than shoulder width. Raise your right hand and your left leg off the ground, and reach your hand to your knee by twisting with your core. Then, return to the plank and do the same on the other side. Try doing 10 reaches per side, and if you feel your hips swaying, bring your feet a little wider apart for stability.
Images: Thought Catalog / Unsplash; Giphy (5); Tumblr (1)
You may have gotten away with hiding under winter coats and Bachelor episodes for the past few months, but soon it’ll be time to step outside in minimal layers, and your bod is nowhere close to being ready. I mean, I don’t blame you. The only people who consistently eat salads and go to the gym all winter are like,
psychopaths people who bet too much money on their 2018 resolutions. When it’s time to put on your new ASOS crop top, you’ll want your abs to look amazing, and the lower ab region of your core can be the hardest to target. If you want to define that area and lose your love handles, you’ll have to start putting in the work, starting with these lower ab exercises.
1. Leg Lifts
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. If you have lower back problems or need a modification, try doing the move with your hands under your tailbone. It sounds ineffective, but it actually makes it so much easier.
2. Flutter Kicks
Flutter kicks are another one of the lower ab exercises that are done lying on your back, but this time you actually need to lift your head and shoulders off of the mat to fully target the lower region of your core. Once again, put your hands under your tailbone if you feel any pain in your lower back. Then, lift your legs up in front of you (they can be slightly bent), and literally kick your feet out in front of you in a little flutter motion. You should feel your lower abs working as you kick, and the movement should be small and controlled. Note that these aren’t scissor kicks, so if you feel like you’re kicking around like a Rockette, you’re doing it wrong.
3. TRX Pikes
These can also be done on a rowing machine or gliders if you don’t have a TRX in your gym, and if you’re doing it at home, you can even use a hand towel on a wooden floor. If you’re using the TRX, put your feet into the straps and then turn over, coming into a plank position with your hands on the floor and your feet hanging in the straps. Then, think about pushing your hands into the ground and pulling your legs toward your chest with your hips, keeping your legs as straight as possible. Try to focus on lifting with your abs while preventing your ankles from pointing. Once your head is looking in between your arms, slowly lower your hips back into your starting plank position. These are hard AF, so if you need to just do a couple reps and then hold a plank, go for it.
4. Dead Bugs
IDK who came up with the name for this move, but it’ll demolish your entire core so we’re gonna go with it. Lie on your back with your arms extended, but bend your knees so that they’re creating a 90 degree angle above your hips. Engage your core and press your lower back into the floor as you slowly extend one leg toward the floor, almost hitting your foot to the ground. Then, bring it back to its bent position and do the same on the other side. Keep alternating sides, and if it feels easy, you can even get your arms involved by extending the opposite arm toward your leg each time you bend.
5. Raised Leg Circles
This exercise requires a lot of physical space, so if you’re like, two feet away from someone else’s mat, you may need to move to a more spacious area of the gym. This is another one of those lower ab exercises where you’re lying on your back but raising your neck and shoulders off the floor. To start, extend your legs out in front of you and lift them a couple inches off the ground. The higher you raise them, the easier it’ll be. Then, keep your feet and legs together as you literally circle them around you, keeping your hips on the ground as much as you can. Try to aim for six to eight circles in each direction. Make sure your feet don’t touch the ground the entire time and that you’re using your core instead of using momentum to swing them around.
6. Hollow Body Hold
This move is a LOT harder than it looks, so try holding it for 25 seconds, and then slowly work your way up to 35, 45, and eventually a full minute. If you thought time moved slowly when planking, wait until you try this. The hollow body hold is exactly what is sounds like, so you’ll be starting lying on the ground. Then, raise your feet off the ground and your arms at the same time, keeping your arms straight behind your head. So basically, only your lower back/ tailbone should be touching the ground, and your abs should be super tight the whole time. If you want to make it easier, put your arms out in front of you or to your sides. If you want to make it harder, hold a weight in your arms and hold it overhead. Just please don’t blame me if it hurts to laugh tomorrow.
Images: Matthew Kane / Unsplash; Bionic Body (1); Giphy (5)
The internet’s obsession with having abs and how to get abs is kind of insane. I mean, I know obliques look good in a crop top and having a strong core is important, but I literally stumble upon some “How To Get Abs So Toned They Could Cut A Diamond” article at least once a day, and frankly it’s getting old. Every fitness influencer on the ‘gram will tell you to do endless crunches and leg lifts, but attaining visible ab definition is so much more than a 10-minute segment at the end of your workout. In fact, if you really want your abs to show, you may even have to adjust your diet (I know, it’s like nails on a chalkboard). If you’re not down to spend hours at the gym doing the 1000 sit-up challenge, here are some legitimate tips on how to get abs.
1. Have Amazing Genes
This reality is so depressing and I’m sorry to be such a downer, but it’s true that genetics play a huge part in having abs. Think of your skinny friend that has had natural abs since seventh grade. I’m guessing she wasn’t doing Russian twists or drinking hot lemon water back then. Some people are just born with the ability to have their abs show at all times, and there’s really nothing else to say. You can def take steps to make your abs look better, but if your body just isn’t made for abs, all you can really do is eat your salad and hate people who are genetically blessed.
2. Stop Eating When Satisfied
A lot of bullshit websites will tell you to count your calories or eat six mini-meals throughout the day, but the real key to slimming down may just listening to your body and not eating until you’re literally too full to function. What does this have to do with how to get abs? Good question. This may surprise you, but everyone has abdominal muscles, and getting them to show is a combination of strengthening them and lowering your body fat. The less body fat you have on your stomach, the more your abs will show. It’s as simple as that. Try to eat until you’re like, 80 percent full and then stop. I know it’s hard, but you’ll feel so much better and may even see some ab definition over time.
3. Add Probiotics To Your Diet
If you’re eating healthy and working out, you should see your abs peek out eventually. BUT, if you have a stubborn digestive system and your body gets bloated or *fluffy* easily, probiotics are a game-changer, and you should get on board. You can buy a probiotic pill over the counter, but honestly some foods are packed with them, so give them a try before resorting to the capsule. (But if you want to just jump to the capsule, we’re here for it.) Professionals recommend trying fermented foods, like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, and Kombucha. Probiotics won’t give you abs overnight, but they will help heal your gut and reduce inflammation in your body, which tends to lead to improved digestion, a flatter stomach, and just overall feeling amazing.
4. Eliminate Artificial Sugars
This is another key when it comes to bloating. You may think that dumping three Splendas into your cold brew and sipping on a Diet Coke until lunch is actually making you skinny, but according to recent studies, you’re wrong. In fact, fake sugars like aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin have actually been proven to make you bloated, which will obviously prevent you from seeing your abs. The takeaway here is to basically experiment with what works with your body and what doesn’t. If you know a certain food or ingredient makes you look five times your actual size, you should prob avoid it.
5. Static Holds Are Key
Now let’s talk about ab exercises, because although diet is v important, so is the fitness part. A lot of people think the best ab routines include a million reps and a ton of volume, but sometimes the opposite is even more effective. Static holds include moves like forearm planks, boat pose, bear planks, V sits, and hollow holds. The idea is to engage your core in a challenging position and hold tight for as long as you can. Try to set a timer for 30 seconds, and then work your way up to a minute, then eventually two minutes. If it’s getting easier over time, it’s because your abs are getting stronger, so congrats.
6. Think Slow, Not Fast
It’s weird to think that you should be going slow while working out, because everyone assumes faster equals a better workout. Like, imagine leisurely peddling your bike during a 45-minute spin class. You’d be the joke of SoulCycle. Your abs are different, because when you go fast, you’re more likely to start using momentum and taking the tension away from your core. By doing your ab exercises in a slow and controlled manner, you’re transferring all the tension on the muscles instead of using momentum from your entire body, aka cheating.
7. Non-Ab Exercises Work Too
If you really want to minimize your gym time, you actually don’t have to do any isolated ab work at all. You just have to work on contracting your abs during other exercises. Any workout can be an ab workout if you’re using your core muscles. The thing about strength training is that you have to engage your core during the moves, whether you’re doing squats, lunges, or even dumbbell rows. To fully engage your core, think about bracing your muscles instead of sucking in your stomach, which is where most people screw up. You may need to tuck your pelvis inward a little bit and actually squeeze the muscles in your butt. Another cue is to think about drawing your belly button in while keeping your spine neutral. You may need to try a few different ways, but once you can actually engage your core during any exercise, you’re toning your abs without doing specific ab work. It’s a win for everybody.
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91 percent of Americans give up on their New Year’s resolutions, and I’m guessing they just got bored on the treadmill and decided to call it a day. Working out is boring, obviously. Every online fitness article shows us the same squat challenges and stupid 10-minute ab routines, but like, how many times can we keep working the same muscles? It’s repetitive and annoying, and it’s time we start working the muscles that we’re not always told to care about on Instagram. Before you dismiss these muscle groups because you’re “scared of machines” or “don’t wanna get bulky,” listen to why you should definitely pay attention to them. I mean, you can do burpees and sit-ups forever, but don’t complain when you completely plateau and start Googling Gigi Hadid’s workout routine. Here’s a breakdown of the muscles you should stop neglecting, and what exercises you should start doing for each one.
What Are They?
Your deltoid muscles are basically your shoulder muscles, and there are different parts to the muscle, but the two you should care about are the front delts and the lateral delts. You might be scared that by working your shoulder muscles you’ll bulk up like a football player, but realistically, that’s not gonna happen unless you’re literally lifting your bodyweight and consuming a shit ton of protein. Toning your shoulder muscles will make your whole arm look more defined and just so much better, and the most ideal way is to work the front of the muscle and the side of it in one workout to tone every angle.
What Exercise Should I Do?
The Lateral Raise to Front Raise. Choose two dumbbells that are lighter than what you’d usually pick up. Your shoulder muscles are strong, but the side and front parts of the muscle can usually only handle very light weight, so think anywhere between three and eight pounds—maybe 10 if you do these regularly. Standing up while holding a dumbbell in each hand and your elbows slightly bent, raise the weights directly in front of you, bringing them to shoulder height with your arms extended. Then, lower them back down, and raise them again, this time laterally to the sides of your body. It should reach shoulder height again, but they’re raised out to the sides instead of in front of you. You can even add in a lunge if you want to make this a total body move. Aim for 10 reps total, then rest for a minute and do another 10.
2. Lat Muscles
What are they?
The biggest muscle in your back is called the Latissimus Dorsi, and it basically gives your whole torso its shape. It’s technically the muscle that makes up your upper back, which you’ve probably never even thought about. When you work your upper back, you’re strengthening the muscles all around your core and back, which will actually help your back get stronger, your posture get better, and your waist look smaller. You’ve neglected this muscle till now, but it’s never too late to start sculpting a sexy back.
What Exercise Should I Do?
Lat Pulldowns. Find the lat pull-down bar at your gym. You’ve probably passed this in fear a million times, but it’s really not that scary, so it’s time to use it. Start by choosing a light weight, and then add weight as you get the hang of it. The idea is to put your hands on both sides of the pull-down bar, sit down on the seat facing the machine, and pull the bar down, squeezing the muscles under your armpits and around your upper back to bring the weights down. If you feel like you’re using your shoulders too much, think about keeping your shoulders as far away from your ears as possible. You’re using your arms, but the strength should be coming from your back, so it’s super important to think about the muscle here.
3. Lower Ab Muscles
What are they?
If you spend your time in the gym doing planks, crunches, and twists, you’re doing really good work for the top of your abs and your obliques, but most people tend to neglect the lower muscles in their abs because they’re the hardest to hit. Most people’s bodies tend to store fat in this region, so it can be hard to picture what I’m even talking about, but think about that V-shape at the bottom of Zac Efron’s abs. Those are the lower abs.
What Exercise Should I Do?
Lying Leg Raises. Start by lying on your back with your hands under your low back/the top of your butt. This will help protect your lower back from getting injured. Then, lift your legs off the ground, keeping them as straight as possible as you bring them up to 90 degrees. Then, SLOWLY lower them back down to the ground. These are meant to be done slowly and carefully, so if you find yourself kicking around and screwing up your form, slow the hell down. Also, a lot of people tend to hold their breath when doing this exercise, but don’t. Inhale as you lift your legs up, and exhale as you lower. Your breathing makes a huge difference here, so don’t forget about that part.
What are they?
Your hamstring muscles are located on the back of your legs, right under your butt and above your knees. People neglect their hamstrings because we’re so into squats and booty donkey kicks, but by strengthening your hamstrings, you’ll actually help tone your butt at the same time. Plus, if you’re into spinning, you’ll get SO much better at it by strengthening your hamstrings. Like, your FlyWheel score will literally double.
What Exercise Should I Do?
Swiss Ball Hamstring Curls. This exercise is based on using a swiss ball or stability ball, but if your gym doesn’t have one, this can also work using TRX bands or the rowing machine. Begin on the floor by lying on your back with your feet up on top of the ball. You want your ankles to be on top of the ball when your legs are fully extended. Raise your hips off the ground, keeping your weight in your shoulders and your feet. Then, flex your knees, pulling the ball inward toward your body while squeezing the backs of your legs. Once the ball is “curled” inward, straighten out your legs again, rolling it outwards. Do 10 reps, then take a quick break and do another 10.
5. Inner Core Muscles
What are they?
Let’s clear something up. There’s a difference between your ab muscles and your core muscles. You can do a thousand unweighted sit-ups everyday, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re strengthening your core. Your pelvic floor, for example, is part of your inner core, and it’s important to strengthen these inner muscles—not only to make us better at planking, but also to pretend our internal organs and actually have better control over our bladder. Most women don’t even know about these muscles, but they’re super important, especially if you plan on giving birth at some point in your life.
What Exercise Should I Do?
Oppose Arm and Leg Raises. Aside from your gyno-prescribed kegels, it’s important to work on core stability to work these inner muscles, and working opposite sides of your body at once is the best way to challenge your core. Starting on your hands and knees, lift your right arm out in front of you and your left leg out behind you. Hold for five seconds, and then return to starting position, preparing to do the same on the other side. Try doing five reps on each side and remember to keep your core tight the entire time.
6. Back Extensor Muscles
What are they?
These muscles make up your lower back, and if you’re used to doing ab workouts, squats, deadlifts, or even spinning, you’ve probably had some pain in your lower back at one point or another. This is because these muscles are easily injured if you don’t warm up before exercising. Your extensor muscles are connected to your spine and to your glute muscles, and you’ll find that once you get stronger in your lower back region, picking things up and other regular activities will actually get easier.
What Exercise Should I Do?
Hyperextensions. Most gyms have a specific bench that these are performed on, but any regular bench will do the trick if you’re limited. Lie down with your stomach on the bench and your head facing the floor. If you’re on the hyperextension bench, put your feet under the ankle pads. With your body straight, put your arms behind your head or crossed on your chest and bend slowly forward at the waist while keeping your back flat. Then, slowly raise your torso back to your starting position, and remember not to round your spine or swing your torso. If you’re advanced, hold a weighted plate at your chest for extra resistance. Either way, remember to go slow and take your time on your way down and up.
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