If you need to fit your workout into an unpredictable window of time, like the spare minutes your kids are otherwise entertained, fear not: There are plenty of ways to trim and tone your core with nothing more than a clear spot on the floor. (A mat, thick towel, or carpet may help, too.)
Here are a few core workouts on the go that will exercise all angles of your abs.
Don’t let the name get you sidetracked. The classic “hundred” is a Pilates move designed to get your blood flowing, and it fully engages your core.
- Start out lying on your back with your knees bent, legs together and actively engaging your leg muscles (especially inner thighs), feet placed evenly on the floor.
- Reach your arms up above your chest, fingertips reaching toward the ceiling — but keep your chest open, shoulders back and down away from your ears, elbows slightly bent.
- As you inhale, lift your legs up to a tabletop position (this means your knees are right above your hips, toes are straight out from your knees to form a 90-degree angle at the back of your knee). Keep your tailbone on the floor and your legs sturdy by squeezing those thighs together.
- Exhale and roll up, leading from your upper abs (think about the spot where your bottom ribs meet your sternum), not your head and neck.
- Count to five for each inhale, and count to five for each exhale. Work toward even, smooth breathing, in and out. Stay in this position for 10 full breaths, and lower down with control. (The exercise is named for the 100 total counts.)
Tip: If you feel your head and neck straining, support the back of your head with one of your hands (but don’t pull your head forward — that can hurt your neck and spine).
Leg Lower and Lift
This workout on the go is very effective because this exercise targets your lowest abdominal muscles, which are challenging to strengthen. Repeat 10 times per set.
- Start out lying on your back, chest open and shoulders back and down, knees bent, legs engaged together, feet evenly on the floor, arms reaching long next to your sides.
- Lift your legs up toward the ceiling, only as high as you can keep your tailbone down — without pressing your lower back into the floor. Keep your inner thighs, knees and ankles all squeezing together.
- Inhale as you lower your legs a few inches (make sure you can still feel the backs of your ribs on the floor) and exhale as you use your lower abs to lift your legs back to the starting position.
Tip: Think about reaching your legs long out of your hips as you lower and lift, and pulling your lower abs up and in the opposite direction — the more length you have, the more the work will go into your abs instead of your hip flexors.
Remember: If you feel any strain in your back, keep your legs in a tabletop position rather than reaching them long. Lower and lift this tabletop, keeping everything stable and still in your legs and torso, just hinging from your abs.
Don’t ignore the core muscles on your back — they’re key for better posture and a longer, leaner look.
- Start out lying on your stomach, legs long with feet pointed and just slightly wider than your hips.
- Stack your hands under your forehead, palms facing down and shoulders engaged down away from your ears. Pull your abs in deeply toward your spine. Then, inhale deeply through your nose and fill your lungs to get ready.
- Exhale as you lift and reach your upper body long and slightly off the floor, keeping your neck a natural extension of your spine (no craning your head upward). Lower down with control and repeat 10 times.
- Now keeping your upper body stable (and abs still super engaged), exhale as you reach your legs long and lift them slightly of the floor. Inhale as you lower them with control and repeat 10 times.
Tip: When you engage your abs, think about pulling your belly button back to your spine (don’t just clench them). This will help you develop a leaner build and keep you from straining your lower back.**Remember to check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program