Coach Arlan Carroll
At-Home Ab Workouts to Help You Feel the Burn
Are you looking to tone and strengthen your core in the comfort of your own home? Here are a few at-home ab workouts to try out.
Are you hoping to get fit during the new year? 95% of New Year's resolutions are fitness related, so if your goal is to build some core strength and show off your abs, you're not alone.
Doing core exercises won't give you a shredded six-pack on their own, but they will help you build strength and improve your balance. You can even build abs at home without ever stepping foot in the gym. When you pair your training with a healthy diet, you'll have abs to show off in no time.
We're here to talk about the exercises you should add to your at-home ab workouts. All you need is enough space and an optional mat and dumbbell. Read on to learn more.
Planks (and Variations)
Planks are the nemesis of many seasoned exercisers. Even people with strong cores struggle with this simple abdominal workout. It looks simple, but within seconds your belly will start to burn.
While some superhumans can hold a plank for several hours, the average person will start to struggle in a minute or less. Even people who are quite strong start to feel the burn after a few minutes.
Planks are simple and you can add them to the end of any of your home workouts. You can also make time for a basic plank anytime during the day, even if you're at work (as long as you have space to do so).
In a standard plank, you can either put your weight in your hands (high plank) or your forearms (low plank). If you're on your forearms, your abs have to do more work. If you're on your hands, your arms and shoulders will do more work.
The rest of your body will be in a push-up position. There should be a straight line all the way from your ankles to your head. You hold this position for as long as possible.
There are also several plank variations. Here are a few of them that are great for quick home workouts.
A side plank will mostly target your obliques, though you will still work your entire core.
Instead of being in a push-up position, you'll be holding yourself up sideways with a single arm or forearm. Forearms are far easier in this case. Your forearm and the foot on the same side of your body will be on the ground holding the rest of your body in a straight line.
If this is too tough, you can also rest your knee on the ground instead.
For an added challenge, add a hip dip. Dip your lower hip down and then push it back up. Do this in 30-35 second sets before moving to the other side.
Plank dips are a challenging little exercise. You can start in either a high plank or a low plank position. The low plank will be harder on your core and you'll have a better range of motion in the high plank.
From this position, dip your hips from side to side, alternating back and forth between your left and your right. You can do this for as long as you like, but make sure both sides are even if you want a balanced core workout.
Plank get-ups are another fun take on planks. You'll be in both a high and low plank position for this one.
Start in a high plank. Then, lower down (one side at a time) until you're in a low plank. Then get back into a high plank.
You do this without changing the rest of your position. Only your arms will move. This is a fun challenge that's great for your core and shoulders.
Toe-touch crunches are a bit different from the standard crunches you may have done in gym class when you were in school. They're great for your abs and you can also do "pulses" at the end of your session if you want an extra burn.
Start flat on your back with your legs straight up. Your toes can be pointed or relaxed, whichever is more comfortable for you. Make sure your back is flat against the ground.
Hold your arms up and engage your core to reach toward your toes before easing back down again. That's a toe-touch crunch!
To turn this into a toe-touch crunch pulse, never disengage your core. Quickly reach for your toes over and over and stay in the "uncomfortable" range for your abs. This is great for a 30-second burnout at the end of an otherwise tough core workout!
Reverse crunches are helpful for targeting those tricky lower abdominal muscles.
Again, start flat on your back. Then, either point your feet straight up as you did before for your toe-touch crunches or bend your knees into a tabletop position.
Use your abs to "push" your hips up as if you were trying to touch your knees to your chest. Your entire upper body should stay flat on the floor while you do this.
Do this in sets of 30 to 45 seconds.
Scissor kicks are tricky, and they may not be ideal for people with weak abdominal muscles. If they're too difficult for you, consider starting with leg drops (we'll discuss those later) until you've built up enough strength.
You'll start flat on your back again. Make sure your tailbone is pressed against the floor. It should stay there for the duration of your exercise (this will protect your back).
Then, "kick" your legs up and down. When one is up, the other should be down. The lower your legs are to the floor, the more difficult this exercise will be.
If you're a beginner, try kicking your legs up higher so the one that's "up" is almost vertical. This is easier on your core but it's great for your flexibility, so you'll still be doing important work.
Don't put your hands underneath the small of your back. If you can't press your back against the floor, it means you need to work on your core strength. Don't cheat yourself out of building strength.
Russian twists are great for your core. They can be hard on your back, so you want to start this exercise without weights and build strength slowly so you don't accidentally hurt yourself.
Sit on the floor with your knees bent and your feet flat on the ground. Lean your torso back until you feel your abs engage. Bend your arms and hold them like you're holding a steering wheel.
Twist your body carefully to one side and then to the other while leaning back. This will work your core and your obliques.
To make this harder, you can lift your feet off of the ground and lean back further to put more pressure on your abs. If you're comfortable in this position, you can either carefully increase your speed or add weights.
Adding weight is more effective than increasing your speed. Never go too quickly or you may risk injury.
Bird dogs are great for your core. They also work your back so you'll have a well-rounded workout. They're not too intense, so people of all skill levels and training preferences can try them.
Start on your hands and knees. Your shoulders should be directly over your hands.
Lift one leg and one arm on opposite sites (for example, your left leg and your right arm). Your arm and leg will go out straight in front of and behind you. Then, move to the other side.
If you feel comfortable doing this, you can add a pulse. Instead of lifting your arm and leg and putting them back down right away, pulse them near the top of the range of motion for an added burn.
If this is too challenging, break it down. Lift each limb independently until you have the core strength to keep yourself balanced.
Leg drops are great for your core and there are several ways to do them. You can also add them to other exercises to increase the intensity.
Start on your back with your legs straight up in the air. You can keep a slight bend to your knees if you're not very flexible. Make sure your back is pressed flat against the ground to protect your back.
For the hardest form of this exercise, you'll slowly drop both legs until they're hovering above the ground before bringing them back up. This is great for your core.
For an easier version, drop one leg at a time. This will put less strain on your abs and back but you'll still build muscle.
For an extra challenge, add leg drops (standard or single-leg) to your toe-touch crunches. After every crunch, do a leg drop!
Add These Exercises to Your At-Home Ab Workouts
If you're in need of serious core training, at-home ab workouts can make a big impact! You can strengthen your core from the comfort of your own home. You don't even need any extra equipment.
Remember: doing ab workouts won't give you visible abs. You need to maintain a healthy diet and do other exercises (both cardio and strength training) if you want a stunning six-pack.
We want to help you reach your fitness goals. Schedule a free consult with coach Arlan to learn how he can help you on your fitness journey.