The first thing you need to know about getting abs is that core exercises are important, but they’re not everything. That annoying phrase “abs are made in the kitchen” is sadly true. By definition, you have to have a pretty low body fat percentage to see abdominal definition, so if you’re not eating right, fix that shit, then come back to this article. If you’re pretty good on the nutrition and you’re looking for the right exercises to shape your core and tone your tummy, here’s what you should and shouldn’t be doing in the gym:
5 Exercises That Work…
1. Weighted Russian Twist
This move is great for toning the sides of your abs because it targets your oblique muscles. Start by holding a 12-15lb weight or weighted ball and sit on the floor with your knees bent. Ideally, your feet shouldn’t be touching the floor, but if you’re a beginner, you get a pass. For now. Lean back so your torso is at an angle, but keep your spine straight. Touch the weight to the floor from one side to the other while keeping your arms in front of your chest. Make sure you twist your core completely or else the whole move is pointless and you’re playing yourself.
People tend to hate on planks because it looks like you’re not doing much and because we’re all still scarred from the planking craze of 2009, but if you’re doing them right, you should feel the burn and see results pretty fast. Planks are amazing for your core, back, legs, and arm muscles, so stop talking shit and start planking. Whether you’re doing a forearm hold or starting on your hands, keep your core tight and hold a stable position for a minute. As your core gets stronger over time, try holding for longer and longer. Separate your feet if you’re just starting out, then move them closer together once you start getting stronger.
3. Side Jackknives
This move is another great one for the sides of your core, and if you do them enough, you’ll start developing that hourglass shape around your waist that guys post about on Instagram all the time. Lying on your right side and keeping your left leg over your right one, place your left hand behind your head and bring your torso and left leg toward each other as you pull with your obliques. Squeeze for a couple seconds and then release your leg and hand. The key here is to go slow and feel every rep, so no cheating.
4. TRX Pikes + Knee Tucks
This move is def more advanced, but like, stop crying and put your feet in the TRX straps. The TRX is that yellow and black suspension trainer at your gym, and it’s time to start using it. Get in a plank position with your feet in the straps and pull your knees into your chest, engaging your core on every rep. If you’re up for the challenge, pike your feet forward, creating a V-shape with your body. You’ll feel the burn immediately, but do as many reps as you can without collapsing.
V-Ups are not, as the name may lead you to believe, a form of Kegel exercises. They actually target the lower part of your abs that gives your body that V-shape you thought only J. Lo was blessed with. Keep your feet together with your toes pointed at the ceiling, and slowly lift your legs up while bringing your upper body off the floor and touching your toes. Try to keep your legs as straight as possible. Squeeze your core for a second and then slowly lower your legs and back down to the floor. It burns pretty bad, but you’ll be thankful when you look unreal in your next bikini pic.
…And 5 Exercises That Are Wasting Your Time:
1. Fast Bicycles
So many girls think that doing fast bicycle crunches will get you a six-pack, and it’s honestly sad to watch. This isn’t SoulCycle, so stop going so fucking fast without using a single muscle in your core. SLOW bicycles, on the other hand, are actually super effective because you’re bringing your shoulder to your knee and isolating your core muscles enough to actually do something. Girls who do fast bicycle crunches and think they’re getting abs are like guys who jackhammer away at your cervix and think they’ve given you an orgasm (ahem, Raven’s ex).
Again, sorry to burst your Shape Magazine bubble, but regular crunches or bodyweight sit-ups are probably wasting your time. Doing 100 baby crunches isn’t impressive, and it’s not going to do shit to your body. Add some weight to your crunches by holding a dumbbell at your chest, or get your feet off the ground to really challenge your core.
3. Leg Lifts
TBH, leg lifts can actually be a good core exercise if you’re doing them slowly and only using your core muscles, but most people just use their hands for assistance and go way too fast to actually get an effective ab workout. This move is more advanced than most people think, so if you’re not that strong yet, you’re way better off starting out with V-ups or planks. Going straight to leg lifts is like skipping cocaine and going directly to crystal meth. Slow the fuck down. And stay away from crystal meth in general.
4. Static Side Planks
People tend to think holding a side plank for 30 seconds will shape the sides of your torso, but those people are what we in the fitness community like to call “idiots”. There are so many better oblique exercises that are way more effective than a static side plank. If you really want to feel the burn in a side plank, try dipping your hip up and down (like Leo does in the above gif) or holding a dumbbell with your arm straight in the air. Otherwise, you’re prob wasting everyone’s time. Mostly your own, but also the people waiting to use your mat while you do the exercise equivalent of sitting there and looking pretty. We’re not saying everyone will hate you if you do a static side plank, but we’re not not saying that. The more you know.
5. Most Ab Machines
This might be controversial since so many people swear by the cable crunch machine or the hanging leg raise bar, but most ab machines at the gym are probably wasting your time if you want a good core workout. It’s not that the machines don’t work, but doing floor exercises are just as effective and are easier to scale to your own level, so don’t waste your time trying to figure out how the machines work. We’re also saving you from some annoying dude coming up to you and offering tips and telling you that you should smile more, so like, you’re welcome.