The key to becoming a stronger athlete is a strong core, but it’s easy to forget to add in some abs exercises at the end of a training day. Who has loads time to tack on a bunch of extra work to the end of your run, anyway?
The good news is, you don’t need a whole lot of time: You can seriously challenge your core in just eight minutes, thanks to this abs circuit that will strengthen your midsection and improve your performance.
Adding this ab circuit to the end of your regular workout routine a few days a week will help you build core strength and balance—it smokes every part of your core, from your hips, trunk, and obliques, as well as incorporates rotation, flexion, and extension on all sides, explains Dane Miklaus, C.S.C.S., WORK Training Studio founder.
“Each of the moves in this routine challenge two or more of those movement patterns, providing a well-rounded and complete workout,” he says. “It finishes off with a little combo core challenge and metabolic boost, because who doesn’t like getting a little breathy?”
How to do it: For this eight-minute workout, perform each move for 40 seconds, going from one move to the next (trying not to rest in between). One round is six moves—four minutes. Repeat twice.
High Plank Opposite Limb Reach
Begin in a high plank with hands underneath shoulders or just in front, and feet shoulder-width apart. Squeezing in at the waist and bracing your core, lift your left arm and right leg up in the air until even with your torso. To help with stability, think about pushing into the floor with the hand and foot on the ground. Lower your limbs slowly to the floor and repeat on the other side. Continue alternating, in control, while focusing on minimizing the side to side or rotational action at your hips.
Lying facedown, extend all four limbs out. Beginning with the small of your back and glutes, begin squeezing through your back to elevate your trunk and legs off the floor. You’ll be using the erector muscles (those that run the length of your spine), glutes, hamstrings, the back of your shoulders, and traps to bring your limbs as high as possible. Try to remain extended from the tips of your fingers to your toes. Lower back towards the floor. Repeat.
Flutter-Kick Leg Lifts
On your back, begin with your hands at your sides, or underneath the small of your back for support. Crunch up slightly, lifting your head neck and shoulders off the floor to look down at your toes. Then, elevate your feet about 6 inches off the floor and begin alternating up and down kicks with your legs.
Squeezing your abs even further, flex at the hip bringing your thighs closer towards your stomach as you continue the kicking action. Once your ankles are crossing over the line of your hip, begin to slowly lower your legs back down towards the floor while continuing the kicking. Lower your legs until they are about six inches off the floor (avoid touching heels to the ground the entire set) and return back upward.
Alternating Side Plank
Begin in a side plank position, with one forearm (bent at the elbow) underneath your shoulder, your feet stacked on top of one another, your hips off the floor, and one arm towards the ceiling. Slowly curl in toward the hand on the ground as you roll your hips and toes forward as if dropping into a low plank.
Plant the extended arm parallel with the one on the floor, and shift the weight into this shoulder as you unfold the circle in the opposite direction. Stop the rotation once you have achieved a successful plank on the opposite side. Repeat.
Seated Core Twists
From a seated position, begin leaning back until you feel like you must pull your feet off the floor to counterbalance. Contract through your abdominals, while keeping your chest elevated to achieve balance on your tailbone. Pull your right knee in to your chest while extending your left leg long to create a counterbalance and stay in the position; simultaneously rotate your torso toward the right, sending your left elbow in contact with your right knee.
Pause for a moment, and then return back the opposite direction extending your right leg, pulling in your left knee, twisting to the left, and tapping your right elbow to the left knee. Repeat.
Beginning in high plank, push down into the floor with your hands, and brace your abs to create a solid foundation. Pulling down with your scapula (shoulder blade), and slightly upward with your hips, elevate your torso slightly as you jump your feet toward your right hand, bringing your bent knees close to touching your right elbow.
Focus on landing softly, And spring back to the starting position in high plank. The moment your feet land, begin jumping in the opposite direction towards your left side, with knees coming to rest just inside your left elbow. Continue hopping back and forth—right side, middle, left side, middle—as fast as possible while still maintaining proper core position.