Still doing crunches at the gym in a quest for abs like Kate Hudson or Channing Tatum? While those classic sit-ups do work your core, it's unlikely they'll transform your stomach completely without some serious supporting moves. Ready for a routine that will give you a toned, sleek midriff?
Newsflash: That six-pack region that everyone works so hard to chisel? Those six little ripples don’t even make up half of your abdominal muscles. Your abs actually wrap all the way around your torso, so to develop a strong (flat) core, the trick is to work the back and sides of your body, too.
In fact, your external and internal obliques—just two of the abdominal muscle groups that make up your six pack—act like a corset for the torso, creating a waistline while simultaneously protecting the spine. So to look and feel your best, exercises that simultaneously work your core and your back body are the most efficient way to get toned and strong.
One of the most simple exercises that will challenge lower back, external oblique, and core strength is the basic deadlift. There are a few different variations on a deadlift, but even the most simple one will challenge your posture and core strength, burn fat, and increase muscle mass. Not only will the abdominal muscles transform, but glutes, hamstrings, and the latissimus dorsi muscles will all be challenged with this full body movement.
The key to your success? Keep your navel drawn up and in, shoulders down and back, and upper back flat as possible as you work through the movement. If you’ve never done a deadlift before, consider working with a trainer just to nail down the basic mechanics. It’s so important to do every repetition with as perfect form as possible, not only because working this way is more efficient (meaning you have to do less reps to see results!) but it’s also much more safe. Hey, you don’t want to hurt yourself on the quest to abs of steel!
Don’t have access to a barbell? Try a twist on a side plank to work obliques and lats. Start by laying on your side, propped up on your elbow on your left side. Lift your hips up so you’re in a full side plank position on your left forearm, then fold your right elbow down to the ground to transition to a side plank on the right side, lifting your left arm off the ground as you move all of your weight over to your right forearm. Repeat this, alternating side plank positions, 30 times.
Want to make it more challenging? Pump up the heat by tapping your hip to the ground every time you switch sides–dropping your hip to gently touch the ground and lifting it up again as you transition can be more difficult than you think!
Illustration by Karley Koenig