The Ultimate Summer Abs Workout
It’s that time of year again — no, not the holidays — summer. And with the mention of summer breezes and beach days comes the obsession we all have with building a fantastic beach body – including the much-coveted six-pack abs.
Now, whether or not you actually do ab workouts long enough to see results of the six-pack stripe is questionable — many other factors go into carving out a chiselled core than performing the best ab workouts at home. These include your diet and your natural body composition of fat to muscle ratio.
However, ab workouts can help you do much more than enhance your physical aesthetic — namely, they can help keep you strong, functional, mobile and prevent injury. So, as you use these ab workouts in the gym or at home, keep in mind that your consistency and commitment will pay off more than just a six-pack.
Why your core is so important to your overall health and strength
You may have heard of the term ‘the body’s core', which refers to the body’s ‘trunk’ at the centre of your body. This system of muscles that make up the core includes muscles that stabilise the hips, the front, sides, and back of the body’s torso, and muscles that stabilise the shoulders.
According to Harvard Health, this section of muscles is the sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body. Whether you’re hitting a tennis ball or mopping the floor, the necessary motions either originate in your score or move through it.
Your core includes your obliques and abdominal muscles, which help develop and stabilise your back muscles, which then also protect your spinal health, supporting the way you walk, sit and even how deeply you breathe.
See how essential your core is?
A few pro tips to keep in mind for ab workouts
Now, ab workouts at home are a significant part of strengthening your core. But there are a few points you need to keep in mind before you get started:
1. Incorporate variety
Whether your goal is to build overall body muscle or firm your core specifically, the key to fitness of any kind is to incorporate variety. Simply hitting the same set of exercises three to four times a week for 12 months is not going to get you the results you want.
That’s because the body eventually becomes strong and gets used to the movements. You need to introduce variety, either by mixing more movements for something known as compound exercises or increasing the weights on your strength equipment.
2. Don’t make the mistake of overtraining
On the other hand, don’t undo your own success by overtraining. Sore and fatigued muscles need adequate rest and recovery. Instead, designate anywhere from 2 to 4 days for rest and recovery, depending on where you are in your fitness journey.
3. There’s no such thing as spot reduction
Many of the ab workouts we’ll cover here focus on strengthening your abdominal muscles. However, it’s wise to note that total-body or full-body movements give you the most value for your money.
Full-body movements are exercises like burpees, squat jumps, clean presses, and planks, to name a few, where all parts of your body, your joints, as well as your balance and form are challenged.
So, while you can certainly incorporate these ab workout moves into your fitness routine, you’re unlikely to see a toned or ‘shredded’ six-pack from making these moves alone. You need to build muscle and lose fat on your overall body to begin to see a slimmer, toned waistline. Getting your heart rate going and losing fat through cardio-centric exercises is a great way to achieve this.
Incorporate any of these summer abs workouts at home or in the gym
1. Stomach vacuums
Do this exercise standing up. Breathe in and exhale slowly. As you exhale, pull your stomach muscles inward and hold them in until you’re ready to inhale. You want to suck your belly button in as much as possible.
Hold the position for as long as 20 seconds before repeating this exercise five times each for a total of three sets.
2. Forearm planks with side twists
Lie flat on the ground on your belly. Lift up into a forearm plank position (which is a plank on your forearms).
Next, keep your shoulders straight, tighten your quads and start to move your core or the middle of your body, swivelling it from side to side. You can also modify this move so that you’re entirely on one side with your legs stacked in a side plank before moving to the other side and holding each side for up to 20 seconds.
You can perform this exercise 10 times for a total of three sets.
3. Weighted leg raises (single or double)
You don’t have to add weight to your leg raises, but if you’re ready to challenge yourself with these ab workouts, you can add some extra resistance through strapping on some ankle weights.
Lie flat on your back and make sure your lower back is pressed against the floor. This ensures your abdominals are engaged and that you don’t injure your lower back with an arch.
Raise your legs up, straight, and over your hips. Slowly lower your legs while keeping them as straight as possible. If you do need to bend your knees because of limited flexibility, that’s absolutely fine. The key is to recruit your abs and breathe deeply while lowering your legs as far as they’ll go.
Then, lift them up — try not to rush through the exercise because the slower you go, the more effective it is for lengthening and strengthening those abs. Perform ten reps of leg raises, either single or double-legged, for a total of three sets.
Tornadoes are very similar to the above exercise because you have to maintain exquisite control both on your way up and down.
However, with tornadoes, you’re creating little circles in the air that get wider and wider as you lower your legs and become smaller as you move back up again. Go ahead and place your hands under your lower back if you need to support a natural arch in your spine. Perform ten reps for two sets before scaling up.
5. Side crunches
Side crunches are exactly what they sound like. The key is to target the obliques and transverse abdominal muscles. Get down on your knees, and tip your body over to one side.
Your lower leg’s knee should be on the mat while the other one is straight and sideways in the air. You can and should support this position by keeping your palm on the floor. Bend and tuck the upper leg, focusing on drawing the knee up to the hip flexor. Then, straighten it out again and repeat for a total of five reps per side for three sets.
This is one of the best ab workouts you can do at home or in the gym. Again, you can add resistance, either through resistance bands or ankle weights.