How to Get a Great Core Workout During Any Exercise

Follow these expert-recommended strategies to sculpt crazy-strong abs during any workout or exercise class.

Yes, ANY.

By K. Aleisha Fetters, Women's Health

You might think the only way to toughen up your tummy is to dedicate part of your workout to abs-only moves. But you would be wrong.

In fact, you can get a solid core workout while throwing punches in kickboxing, spinning your wheels in cycling class, or showing the guys in the weight room how much girls can really lift.

Follow these expert-recommended strategies to sculpt crazy-strong stomach muscles during any workout or exercise class.


Cycling Class

Whatever position you’re in, keep your back straight! Letting your back round and shoulders fall forward can disengage your core and potentially create imbalances between the muscles in your legs and the ones in your core, says Kourtney A. Thomas, C.S.C.S. owner of Lagniappe Fitness in St. Louis. To keep your abs working hard, focus on keeping your chest open and shoulders back so your spine stays naturally straighter and your core remains activated throughout the ride, she says.

If you have a hard time not hunching over, try raising your bike’s handlebars a couple of notches. While doing so will lighten the load on your core, it will allow you to keep your spine straight, she says. Eventually, your core will be strong enough so that you can lower the handlebars back down and maintain correct posture.


[post_ads]Remember learning about the “athletic stance” back in grade school P.E.? This is the time to use it. “I always cue clients and classes to bend their knees, tilt their pelvises (think: an imaginary belt buckle around your waist would face up slightly), and brace their core,” says Thomas. “If I were to punch you in the gut, you'd be prepared.” By keeping that stance while kicking and punching, you put your inner core muscles to work, and deliver those jabs and kicks with more power, says Todd Whelan, C.S.C.S., fitness manager at Crunch gym in Midtown Manhattan. In turn, those classic kickboxing moves make your core work extra hard to stay engaged. After all, your core muscles are the ones in charge of keeping each punch from pulling your whole body forward.

Strength Training

Again, focusing on that “athletic stance” will make every muscle, including those in your core, stronger while you lift weights. Meanwhile, focusing on proper breathing helps to keep your abs stable and activate those muscles, says Whelan. Focus on inhaling slowly through your nose during the easy phase of each exercise, like the down motion of a squat, for example. Then, when you start back up, quickly and forcefully exhale through your mouth, like you’re trying to blow up a balloon. You’ll definitely feel it in your abs.



From the get-go, this workout is all about the core. But maintaining proper spinal alignment during every exercise can take your core work to a whole new level, says Pilates instructor Jacquelyn Brennan, C.S.C.S. and co-founder of Mindfuel Wellness in Chicago. To line everything up, stand tall so that your weight is evenly distributed throughout your feet. Keep your pelvis neutral (don’t stick your butt out or tuck it under), position your ribs so they're directly over your hips, and position your ears directly over your shoulders, she says. Just standing there, even before getting on the floor or moving into any exercise, you’ll feel your core engaged.


[post_ads]Running doesn't directly work your core, but your core strength impacts your running ability, says Thomas. "Strong abs can make your stride more efficient and increase your speed and endurance,” she says. To work your six-pack muscles more during your run, stand tall, lead with your chest, and keep your shoulders back. You’ll feel more activation through your core, she says.

Another running drill that does a good job of working your abs is backward jogging, she says. Set up on a treadmill at a three percent incline, and carefully hang onto the handrails to turn yourself away from the dashboard. Hang on as long as you need to, and start at a very slow jog. The point isn’t to go fast, it’s just to practice core engagement. Once you get used to what an “engaged core” feels like when jogging backward, try to practice the same engagement during your regular runs.


Balancing poses, like warrior three, dancer pose, and headstands, are some of the best moves for working the deep, stabilizing core muscles, says Brennan. But to work those abs during any pose, try to concentrate on those yoga breaths your instructor is always talking about. With each, inhale through your nose while inflating your belly (so you look a few months pregnant), then exhale a slow “haaa” through your mouth, forcing your belly up and in. That single motion will work both your rectus abdominis and the stabilizer muscles that keep your torso long and lean, she says.


The Elliptical

You might hop on this cardio machine in hopes of torching major calories without pounding the pavement or a treadmill, but the elliptical can also be a stellar core-sculpting tool. Move your arms with each stride, but don't touch the handles. That way, your arms aren't helping you keep your balance, and your core will have to do the work, says Thomas. You can also switch things up by backward pedaling, which shifts your center of gravity so that you have to work your core even more. “You can definitely feel a difference with that little change,” she says.

See more at: Women's Health


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Health Magazine: How to Get a Great Core Workout During Any Exercise
How to Get a Great Core Workout During Any Exercise
Follow these expert-recommended strategies to sculpt crazy-strong abs during any workout or exercise class.
Health Magazine
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