Physical activity guidelines say to work on every major muscle group at least twice weekly. Your abdominal muscles, or abs, are one of those groups.
These are five different exercises that work the abs. Some of them work other muscle groups. There are variations for beginners and for more advanced exercisers. You can do them without equipment or with minimal equipment.
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Abdominal exercises may seem like icing on the cake, but they're not just for people who want six-pack abs. Instead, a strong core is important because it can help with your stability and balance, according to Mayo Clinic.
These five exercises work the abs, and some of them work other muscles, too. They don't require any equipment, and you can modify them to make them easier or harder as needed.
We are only giving short descriptions of each exercise here. The American Council on Exercise describes them in more detail and shows how to do each one. Since good form is essential, be sure to ask an expert for help if you need it. You can do each exercise until you start to feel tired, but can still maintain good form.
1. Bird Dog
Start on the floor on your hands and knees. Your hands should be under your shoulders, and your feet should be hip-width apart. Rest your feet with your toes pointing slightly inwards. Lift an arm and the leg on the opposite side simultaneously. Straighten the leg as you lift and keep the arm straight. Lift until they are parallel to the floor, and then lower.
This exercise works the abs, back, and hips. You can make it harder by adding a crunch with your elbow and knee before putting your hand and knee back on the floor. You can also do this exercise from your hands and toes instead of from your hands and knees.
2. Glute Bridge
Lie on your back with your hands at your sides and your feet flat on the floor with knees bent. Keeping your abs tight, contract your glutes (buttocks) to push the hips towards the ceiling. Then lower back down.
This exercise works the abs and glutes. Harvard Medical School lists it as one of the best core exercises for older adults. You can vary this by holding the contraction at the top or by adding weights on top of your thighs (quadriceps). You can also do a single-leg glute bridge with one foot on the ground and the other foot up in the air with the sole pointed to the ceiling and that leg straight before you lift your glutes.
Hold your body weight facing downwards with your forearms on the floor, hands face-down and fingers pointing forwards, and with your knees and toes on the floor.
This works your abs and back. You can make it harder by raising up to your toes and forearms and holding it there. You can also try raising your legs, one at a time, to work the glutes as well. Another variation is to do a plank with just your hands and toes on the floor.
4. Dead Bug
Start by lying face up on the floor with legs bent and feet flat on the floor. Have your hands and feet in the air. Keep your abs engaged by focusing on keeping your belly button pulled in towards your spine and your back pressed against the floor. Lower your left arm and right leg simultaneously. Then bring them back up and switch sides.
This exercise works your abs. You can make it easier by keeping your legs and arms bent as you lower them. You can make it harder by straightening your legs and arms as you lower them.
Sit with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Arms are straight with hands palms down on the floor just behind you. Slowly lean back, keeping your back straight, as you lift your feet off the floor and straighten your legs.
This works your abs. You can make it easier by doing only one leg at a time and by not leaning back as far. You can also vary it by lying on your back instead of sitting up, and lifting just your arms, just your legs, or both your arms and legs straight upwards.
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