You run, you lift, you cycle, you play sports. By the time you're done with all the activities you love, who has time for pesky ab exercises? Luckily, there are ways to incorporate ab work into your normal workout, without needing to hit the floor for crunches. Check out the "GirlsGoneSporty approved" four best ab exercises designed for women who hate working their abs.
Medicine ball reverse woodchops
Yes, technically the reverse woodchop is an ab exercise, but it also targets everything from your shoulders to your thighs. Rather than hitting the floor for bicycle crunches to target your obliques, just add the reverse woodchop as part of a superset or circuit when you're at the gym.
- Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, holding a medicine ball with both hands, your arms hanging straight down.
- Begin to squat down and rotate your torso slightly to the right as you squat, bringing the medicine ball to the outside of your right leg, your arms remaining straight. Continue looking straight forward with your chest pointing straight ahead during this part of the movement. This is the starting position.
- Keeping your arms straight, rotate your torso to the left, moving your arms in a controlled diagonal angle as you stand up from your squat position until you're holding the medicine ball above your head on the left side of your body. Your torso should move as a unit, so as you rotate, your shoulders, chest and hips will rotate and turn to the left. Allow your right leg to move naturally as you twist, allowing your toes to turn inward and your heel to come off the ground as needed.
- Reverse the movement, returning to the starting position.
- Continue the woodchop for 10 to 15 repetitions before repeating on the opposite side.
The walk-out pushup is an excellent core exercise that also targets your shoulders and chest while stretching your low back and hamstrings. Sub it in for one of your usual chest exercises or incorporate it into your stretching routine. Just be sure to move in controlled motions to avoid placing unnecessary stress on your rotator cuff or low back.
- Start in a standing position with your feet hip-width apart and your knees slightly bent.
- Slowly bend forward, rolling your torso vertebrae-by-vertebrae toward the floor until you can place your hands on the ground. If you're not very flexible, feel free to widen your stance and bend your knees to protect your back and hamstrings.
- Once your hands touch the ground, walk them out, away from your body, keeping your legs as straight as possible and your torso tight. You don't want your back to sway!
- Continue walking your hands out until your body forms a straight line, your hands positioned directly below your shoulders. Perform a pushup from this position. If you can't perform a full pushup, just drop your knees to the ground to do a modified version.
- When your pushup is complete, reverse the movement, and walk your hands back toward your body, keeping your torso tight and your legs as straight as possible. Feel free to bend your knees to help protect your low back and hamstrings as need be.
- Roll your body back to a standing position. Repeat eight to 12 times.
Think of mountain climbers as planks on steroids. Not only do you have to keep your core actively engaged throughout the exercise, you're also getting a hefty dose of high-intensity cardio combined with full-body toning.
- Start in a full plank position with your arms extended under your shoulders, your torso straight and tight.
- Pull your right knee toward your chest, placing the ball of your right foot on the ground, almost as if you're a sprinter getting ready to race.
- From this position, begin the exercise: In a single movement, hop your right leg backward, extending your leg behind you as you simultaneously hop your left leg forward. As soon as the balls of both feet land on the floor, reverse the movement, hopping both feet back to their starting positions. Continue hopping your feet back and forth for as long as you can. Aim for 30 to 60 seconds.
- Rest for a minute, then repeat.
Medicine ball slides
Like the mountain climber, the medicine ball slide offers a burst of cardio along with your core workout. Also, don't be surprised if your legs start to burn as you slide laterally back and forth across your space. This exercise is a workout!
- Mark out a 10 to 12 foot space, placing two medicine balls on one side and one medicine ball on the other.
- Starting on the side with two medicine balls, pick one ball up and hold it in front of your torso before sliding laterally across the space. Keep your knees bent, your hips back and your torso engaged as you slide.
- When you reach the opposite side, plant your feet, squat and rotate your torso to the outside as you place your medicine ball on the ground, retrieving the waiting ball. Slide back across the space carrying the new ball, again switching medicine balls when you reach the starting point.
- Continue sliding back and forth, switching out medicine balls, until you have crossed the entire space 20 to 30 times.
Header image credit: Lululemon Athletica, http://www.flickr.com/photos/lululemonathletica/4186226420/