Despite social media being awash with sculpted six-packs, achieving cobblestone abs is hard to attain and maintain. It depends on a lot of factors outside of the gym from your nutrition to body fat, and even genetics to how easily you can lose belly fat, and get those beach-ready abs.
The benefits of a strong core
Ego shouldn’t be the only factor driving the desire for a toned midsection. Having a strong core can benefit your health far beyond showing off your gains in the summer photo album. Whether it’s your weekend 5Ks, your Crossfit WODs or your boxing sessions, a strong core helps you hit PBs faster and recover sooner, accelerating your training routine.
Core exercises strengthen your overall musculoskeletal body to protect against back pain and improve balance, posture, flexibility, and agility. Your daily movement will feel easier, you’re less likely to get injured and it could help prevent mobility problems later in life. So, aside from taking the most insta-worthy photos, incorporating abs and core into your training routine is a no-brainer.
If you want those chiseled abs that make a statement, low body fat levels are a must. Start with the hard work of reducing your body fat, and getting your nutrition on point. That lays a great foundation to build strength, gain muscle and reveal definition for those head-turning beach-worthy abs.
The difference between abs and core
Now, let’s do a bit of myth-busting. People use ‘abs’ and ‘core’ interchangeably but they’re different. Your core is actually a three-dimensional group of muscles made up of two long muscle groups in your back, along your spine, and your pelvic floor.
The front core includes four abdominal muscle groups: rectus abdominis, internal obliques, external obliques, and transverse abdominis. The perfect core routine should incorporate all of these groups for maximum development and gains. With this in mind, this workout will develop and challenge the core for a good balance of function and visual impact.
Build a chiseled torso with this 20-minute abs circuit three times a week. Slot onto the start or end of your gym or home training sessions. After warming up, set a timer to go off every minute for 18 minutes. (Tabata timer apps are great for this!) You’ll complete a set number of reps or seconds in the allocated minute, then stop to rest before the stopwatch sounds again to start your next exercise.
The 18-minute abs circuit workout
Minute 1: 20 V-sits
Minute 2: 10 Kettlebell Windmills (Switch arms after each round)
Minute 3: 30-second Hollow Body Hold
Repeat for six rounds.
You’ll complete the set number of reps or seconds in the allocated minute, then stop to rest before the stopwatch sounds again to start your next exercise. If you finish the reps before the end of the minute then the remaining time is your rest time.
Scale the reps or seconds up or down as you see fit, but remember, you need to push yourself to your limits for it to work. If you can’t manage to perform the exercises when you first start, keep persisting until you get it.
As you get fitter and stronger, you may get faster at completing your reps, but make sure you focus on performing each rep with perfect form every time. If you don’t, you’re only cheating yourself.
How to perform this abs circuit | V-Sits
The v-sit requires reasonable core strength to be properly executed. It hits the abdominal groups from both angles for maximum impact.
1: In this exercise, you bring your torso and extended legs off the ground so your body forms a ‘V’ shape, with your arms in front of you at the top of the movement.
If you are a beginner, modify the v-sit by using some momentum from your hands to fire you up off the ground.
2: You need to keep your back straight and your head and neck in a neutral position at all times to maintain good form. Breathe out as you lift your torso, using only your abdominal strength, and then slowly return to the starting position.
Just think of the gains – breath and repeat!
How to perform this abs circuit | Kettlebell Windmills
This full-body movement is one of the best core exercises and will work your core from every angle! To protect our backs, the core stabilizes. Being in motion while you perform this movement while keeping shoulders stable means our core is working even harder to control the body.
1: Place a kettlebell in front of your foot and clean and press it overhead.
2: Keeping the kettlebell locked out overhead at all times, push your hips out to the side in the direction of the locked-out kettlebell, moving towards the floor with your free hand and side of your body.
3: Take it slowly and tense your core as you go. To maintain balance, keep your eyes looking up at the kettlebell overhead as you travel down towards the floor. Pause for a second when you reach the ground and reverse the motion back to the starting position in a slow and controlled movement.
Hold your nerve (and core) for this all-over kettlebell power play.
How to perform this abs circuit | Hollow body hold
The hollow hold keeps the center of your body still. A strong, stable core allows you to generate powerful movements with your upper and lower body while keeping your back free from injury or pain. Mastering the hollow hold can form the basics to many advanced gymnastics and calisthenics movements.
1: Lie on your back facing the ceiling and assume a dead-bug position: legs together, hips and knees bent at 90 degrees, and arms extended out in front of you towards the ceiling.
2: Lift your shoulder blades off the floor and engage your core to press your lower back firmly into the floor. Keeping your head and shoulders lifted off the floor, lower your arms straight overhead as you simultaneously straighten and lower your legs.
3: Hold this position, breathing with deep, smooth breaths.
Mastering this will power-up all your other lifts.
And that’s it!
Three movements, for six rounds, three times a week.
Whether you need to be beach-ready, pool-ready, or even garden-ready, this 20-min ab workout will help you achieve envy-inducing abs and a strong core to boot.