A New Angle On Abs

Target your core with these five innovative moves.

Lara McGlashan MFA CPT | June 17, 2016

It’s officially summer — how’s your six-pack? Everyone wants a ticket for the A(b)-train and the key to hitching a ride — aside from ditching your Friday night pizza habit — is to use these multitasking core moves.

“The exercises in this workout hit a large number of muscles and train the core in various planes of motion,” says Allison Westfahl, NASM-CPT, author of “Core Envy: A 3-Step Guide to a Strong, Sexy Core” (VeloPress, 2016) and creator of this workout. “They also elevate your heart rate and challenge your neuromuscular system.”

After a thorough warm-up, strength-training session or cardio workout, do the workout as programmed in the chart or choose a couple of moves to blend into a circuit. “You can train your core three to four times a week if you use different exercises and work in different planes of motion,” Westfahl adds. “And remember, doing one set is always better than doing zero, so don’t take the all-or-nothing approach when you’re short on time!”

5 Fab Tips for carving an envious core, from Allison Westfahl

• Faster is not better. In fact, slowing down ensures you are recruiting the correct muscles. Momentum is not a muscle!

• Always maintain a tall posture, even when you’re horizontal or in motion.

• Imagine pulling your ears back so they are sitting directly atop your shoulders to align your spine.

• Keep the back of your neck long and your spine neutral by slightly tucking your chin.

• Let your body be your guide: If something is painful or uncomfortable, don’t do it. If these moves are too challenging, try the “make it easier” version to scale to your abilities.

Exercise Sets Reps
Reverse Tabletop with Crossover Twist 2 to 3 15 each side
Twisting Windmill Boat Pose 2 to 3 15 each side
Twisting Side Plank 2 to 3 15 each side
Planking Frog Legs 2 to 3 15
Single-Legged C Bend 2 to 3 15 each side

Reverse Tabletop With Crossover Twist

This move opens chronically tight chest, shoulder and hip muscles while working the glutes and hamstrings.

Setup: Sit with your hands placed behind you, fingers forward, and your feet hip-width apart with your knees bent. Press down into your hands and feet and lift your hips so you make a flat tabletop from your knees to your shoulders.

Move: Hold this reverse tabletop as you slowly lift one foot up and over your hips, simultaneously reaching across your body with the opposite hand to touch your toes. Replace your hand and foot and continue, alternating sides.

Make it easier: Hold the reverse tabletop and extend one leg straight out, parallel to the floor, holding briefly. Replace and then continue, alternating legs.

Tip: Keep your hips elevated throughout to best engage your glutes and challenge your core.

Twisting Windmill Boat Pose

This “twist” on Boat Pose challenges your balance while elongating your spine and killing your obliques.

Setup: Sit with your knees bent and lift your legs in front of you so your shins are parallel to the floor. Lean back slightly with a straight spine, balancing on your tailbone, and extend your arms straight out to the sides at shoulder height.

Move: Twist your torso to the right, reaching your left hand toward your toes and your right hand directly behind you. As you begin to twist, sweep your arms up toward the ceiling, then down again to the opposite sides as you come all the way to face left, right hand reaching forward and left hand reaching back. Continue, alternating sides.

Make it easier: Clasp your hands in front of your chest, elbows bent, and twist side to side, alternately tapping your elbows to the floor.

Tip: Imagine “wringing” out your waist with each twist, exhaling all your air and trying to reach a little farther each time.

Twisting Side plank

You’re balancing, you’re twisting, you’re working your upper body and core and legs at the same time — lots of neuromuscular stimulation happening!

Setup: Get into side plank with your hips, shoulders and knees stacked, elbow directly underneath your shoulder. Place your top hand behind your head with your elbow pointing toward the ceiling, then lift your top leg, foot flexed.

Move: Hold this plank as you twist slowly, reaching your elbow toward the floor as far as you can without breaking form. Return to the start. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Make it easier: Lower your leg and do the move in traditional side plank, or bend your bottom knee to touch the floor for added support.

Tip: As you lower your elbow, press back slightly with your top hip to counter-balance your weight and stay in position.

Planking Frog Legs

This move forces your core to stabilize the torso and hips while the legs are moving.

Setup: Place each foot on a gliding disc or towel and get into plank with your elbows underneath your shoulders and your head, hips and heels in line.

Move: Bend your knees and slowly pull them in toward your chest underneath you. Then push them out, around and back in a circle, as if doing a breaststroke kick in a pool. Continue, slowly, for reps.

Make it easier: Do this move on your hands to give yourself more room underneath your body, or use one leg at a time instead of doing them simultaneously.

Tip: Keep your hips low and abs tight and move slowly and deliberately for each rep.

Single-Legged C Bend

Standing is how we use our core muscles in real life, and it’s important to train them in this position.

Setup: Stand with your legs together and extend your arms straight up overhead, palms pressed together. Lift your right knee in front of you to hip height and hold.

Move: Shift your hips to the left as you reach over and to the right with your hands to come into a C position. Return to the start without lowering your foot and repeat. Do all reps on one side before switching.

Make it easier: Do the move while standing on both feet with your legs together.

Tip: Think about lifting up and out of your hips and stretching away from your lower body rather than crunching down as you bend to the side.

Like these moves?

Then check out “Core Envy: A 3-Step Guide to a Strong, Sexy Core,” by Allison Westfahl (VeloPress, 2016), allisonwestfahl.com

About the Author

Lara McGlashan MFA CPT

Oxygen Fitness Editor Lara McGlashan has more than 15 years of experience as a writer and editor, who specializes in health, fitness, and nutrition. 

Lara is an ACE-certified personal trainer and fitness consultant. Her sports background includes skiing, snowboarding, flying trapeze, yoga, competitive beach volleyball, dance, mountain biking, hiking and running, to name a few endeavors. She is currently exploring the world of CrossFit in her home base of Connecticut, where she lives with her 2-year-old son, Alex.

You can follow her on Facebook at LaraFitnessEditor.