Crunches are out and proper core work is in. Here are the best moves to actually work your abs...
Hollow holds: The main focus is maintaining deep core engagement while breathing and with the body in motion. Try a combo of hollow holds, hollow rocks and 'dead ant' with opposing knee and elbow together, as show by CrossFit coach Jesse Akister.
The classic plank: This traditional move is never fun, but it’s one of the best out there for activating your core — particularly if you’ve just given birth. “It’s a great way to engage everything,” says Lotis Sanchez, a physical therapist who specialises in pre- and post-natal. “Start with 30 seconds, then progress to one minute and longer. If that’s too hard, begin on the knees.”
V-ups: Lay on the floor on your back, then use your core to raise your hands towards your feet into a ‘v’. Repeat. “Just think: v-ups, v-ups, and more v-ups. It targets your abs and obliques, but also strengthens your back, quads and hamstrings,” says calisthenics pro Tracy Harmoush.
Boat pose: If plank and v-ups had a child, this would be it. This stationary pose involves raising yourself slightly higher from a v-up, with your arms outstretched, your core engaged and squeezing everything as tight as possible. “Most core exercises only work your rectus abdominus, the outside muscle everyone wants at the gym,” says yoga instructor Simona Stanton. “Boat pose activates the inner abs and makes you stronger.”
Knees to head: Lay on your back with shoulder blades off the ground, using your bellybutton to push your lower back into the floor. Draw your knees to your forehead. Extend and retract your arms and legs slowly, keeping that half-circle shape. “It’s super challenging to start, but this strengthens you so much,” says Melissa Ghattas, yoga instructor.
Toes to bar: Find a bar that’s above your head, grab it and hang. Now raise and lower your legs slowly. Ideally they’re fully extended, but if that’s not possible, bend the knees and lift and lower. This is one move Karen Matter, a calisthenics pro, absolutely swears by. “It’s great for a tight core.”