If you only can (or want to) devote 10 minutes a day specifically to abs work, what should you do?
While the path to abs includes not only what you do with those 10 daily minutes (but also what happens in the other 1,430 minutes of the day), the promise of a quick abs routine isn't as far fetched as you might believe.
To get whatever your definition of “abs” is—whether it’s for sports performance or beach life—there are a handful of efficient ways to make your dreams of seeing your abs a reality.
The 10-Minute Abs Workout
Building an impressive core can be done in just 10 minutes. Perform this workout, created by Ladder Advisor Adam Bornstein, at the end of your workout.
- Set a timer for 10 minutes.
- Perform each exercise listed for 20 seconds, and then move on to the next movement.
- Rest as needed (or as little as possible), and perform each exercise until the 10 minutes are up.
- Hollow body hold (+weight overhead for added difficulty)
- Left-arm Renegade Row (Plank + Single-arm row)
- 20 weighted crunches (hold a dumbbell at chest level)
- Right-arm Renegade Row (Plank + Single-arm row)
- Mountain climbers
Want to know what else you can do to fine-tune your abs? Just follow these 4 tips and your midsection will thank you.
Multi-Task During Workouts
You do it at work (replying to emails while on a conference call), and you do it at home (replying to emails while on S2, Ep 3 of House of Cards). Why not take the same principle to your workouts?
Double-up by hitting your core while you’re working on your upper or lower body. The best way to do it: Unilateral exercises—normal exercises using only one leg or arm at a time. You can do it with just about any move—squats, deadlifts, dumbbell bench presses, shoulder presses.
“When you’re only using one arm, you’re using your core a whole lot more,” says Stephen Holt, owner of 29 Again Fitness in Maryland and an American Council on Exercise personal trainer of the year.
Cables work especially well, Holt says, because they create tension in the horizontal vector, not just the typical vertical planes that standing exercises usually emphasize, which forces your core to engage more.
Don't Fear Resistance
When it comes to building core muscles, the path of least resistance is actually the path with the greatest resistance. That is, don't only focus on the high-rep approach when it comes to abs work and be sure to focus on strength training. Add some weight to your abs exercises, such as resting a dumbbell on your chest when you do crunches.
“Abs are just like every other muscle. The principles are all the same. Needing 50 reps just doesn’t make sense physiologically,” Holt says. If you want to build your abs up, you have to use resistance.”
Embrace Plank Variations
Use these stabilization exercises to give yourself a good foundation, says Shaun Zetlin, master trainer and fitness author. A high plank—the “up” of a push-up position engages the transverse abdominis, which is the only ab muscle to attach to your spine, Zetlin says. That’s important because developing the muscle will give you the stability to perform more advanced abdominal moves.
In addition, Zetlin says, the high planks work a whole host of ab muscles at the same time. When you move to a side plank (one hand on the ground, the other hand pointing to the ceiling and one side of your foot on the floor so your body is aligned), you’ll also add in other muscle groups like your obliques glutes.
As you progress, and if you can hold these poses for 1 minute or longer, experiment by trying with one arm or one leg. “You need to do something different to make it harder,” Holt says.
Stop Counting Reps
To really work your core, try the technique of eliminating the reps and just counting for time—or just go as long as you can go.
This forces you to think more about your muscle rather than an artificial benchmark that may or may not be helping your muscles grow and get stronger.
“I don’t want to think about numbers,” Holt says. “I just think about the muscle and how hard the move feels to me. I’m not interested in the actual number. I think most people need to try it.”