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We all have different goals when it comes to our midsection, but if there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that a strong core makes things like a slim waist and toned abs way more attainable. Many people think their core refers solely to their abs. But while it does relate to the muscles around your torso, the term extends to the muscles in your pelvis and spine, which affects your arms, hips, and legs, too. Working on your core can improve your posture, help with back pain and balance, and reduce the risk of injuries while exercising. Needless to say, it's essential to build a strong core.
That's why we decided it's only fitting to share the ultimate waistline routine that does just that. These 10 exercises hit your abs from different angles to work every inch of your core, including your obliques, upper abs, and lower abs. Though these workouts are quick, they'll leave you feeling stronger and will ultimately pave the way for you to reach your fitness goals. We tapped the Tone It Up girls to learn about their go-to core workouts, from side planks to toe touches. With their help, and that of fitness expert and personal trainer Nick Stellate, we're breaking down everything you need to know to master these quick and simple moves, so you can keep them in your back pocket.
Meet the Expert
- Karena Dawn and Katrina Scott are the cofounders of Tone It Up, the leading fitness community for women. Join them in the Tone It Up app for exclusive access to more than a dozen expert-led fitness programs, over 550 on-demand workouts, healthy recipes, and meal plans—plus community love and support.
- Nick Stellate is an American College of Sports Medicine exercise specialist and a nutrition counselor based in Los Angeles.
Before you start a new core-strengthening routine, it is always a good idea to check in with your doctor—especially if you have had a recent back injury or are pregnant. Make sure you maintain proper form throughout the exercise to avoid injury. Stellate says to perform each movement in a slow and controlled manner to avoid straining your back.
Before you start the exercise, it is important that you brace or tighten your core not only to work your abdominal muscles but also to support your back. To do this, think about tucking your tailbone under or drawing your navel in toward your back.
Stellate says you may need to make modifications to some of the more advanced exercises until your core improves in strength. Several of these moves use dumbbells for added resistance. However, he says, if you can't maintain good form or you feel your back tightening up, perform the moves without the weight, and follow up with a stretch.
"If you feel your lower back getting tight, put the dumbbell down, lie on your back, and pull your knees into your chest for a few minutes," he says.
Ready to get started? Keep scrolling for 10 of the best exercises from the Tone It Up girls for toning your abs and sculpting your waistline.
The Tone It Up girls like to incorporate moves that strengthen your muscles and get your heart rate up—and this exercise checks both boxes. "This move focuses on tightening the internal and external obliques—the areas that commonly host 'love handles'—and lower back," says Stellate.
- Start in a plank position, with your body in a straight line from head to toe, shoulders stacked directly over your wrists.
- In one sweeping motion, rotate your body to the right as you kick your left foot through.
- Open into a side-plank position, extending your right arm straight overhead.
- Return to plank position, and repeat on the opposite side.
- Do 15 reps, alternating sides.
Rock the Boat
Stellate says that this move targets the rectus abdominis (what's commonly known as "washboard abs") and the serratus muscles located on the rib cage. "If your back gets tight while performing this move, put the dumbbell down, widen your legs, and lean forward to stretch out the lower back," he suggests.
- Starting in a boat pose, hold your dumbbell in both hands at chest level.
- With a long spine and core engaged, rotate the dumbbell across your body to the right, then to the left.
- Keep your feet off the floor if you can. If you can't, perform this move with your feet on the ground until your core strength improves.
- Repeat for 15 seconds, alternating sides.
Side Plank and Oblique Twist
"This move focuses on tightening and strengthening the obliques, lower back, and shoulders," says Stellate. "Make sure to hold the dumbbell in a comfortable position to avoid putting any strain on your wrist."
- Start in a side-plank position, with your right forearm planted firmly on the ground and your left hand holding a dumbbell on the ground in front of you.
- For extra stability, you can stagger your legs, placing your top foot just in front of the bottom foot.
- Engaging your core and keeping the dumbbell as close to your body as possible, raise your left arm straight overhead.
- With control, lower the dumbbell back down and twist directly under your torso.
- Return to starting position.
- Do 15 reps on each side.
The Tone It Up girls like this move because it targets both your upper and lower abdominal muscles. "This is an excellent abdominal exercise for all age groups," adds Stellate.
- Start by lying on your back, with your feet flexed and your legs extended so they're perpendicular to the ground.
- Holding a dumbbell in both hands, reach your arms toward your feet as you lift your shoulders off the ground.
- Return to the starting position.
- Do 15 reps.
"Beginners may want to perform [this move] one leg at a time to avoid lower-back tightness," recommends Stellate. "For extra support, you can place the dumbbell behind your head."
This move not only has a fun name, it also tones and strengthens your entire core.
- Begin by lying on your back, with arms and legs extended out to the sides.
- In one sweeping motion, peel your shoulders and legs off the ground and hug your knees into your chest, engaging your core as you come up.
- Slowly lower back down.
- Do 15 reps.
Bicycles are a fabulous exercise because they tone and strengthen your obliques. According to the Tone It Up girls, this cardio-ab move also pumps up your metabolism to help you build lean muscle.
- Lie on your back, with your knees bent in a tabletop or 90-degree bend.
- Place your hands behind your head, and lift your shoulders off the ground.
- Straighten your left leg while twisting your body to the right, so your left elbow touches your right knee.
- Repeat on the other side in a bicycle-like motion.
- Repeat 15 times on each side.
This exercise is a total-body move that works your obliques, shoulders, and hips. Perform the move in a slow and controlled manner. Keep your core tight to help provide stability.
- Get into a side-plank position by placing your right forearm on the ground, with your right knee placed on the ground.
- Extend your top leg (the left leg) out straight.
- Lift your left arm overhead.
- Perform a crunch by bringing your left elbow to your left knee.
- Repeat 15 times.
- Switch to the other side, and repeat.
The plank jack combines two amazing exercises—the plank and the jumping jack. This total-body exercise works and challenges your core while strengthening your arms, shoulders, and legs.
- Begin in a plank position, with your shoulders over your wrists and your legs straight behind you.
- While keeping your hands stationary, jump your feet out to the sides and then back together.
- Keep your core engaged throughout the movement.
- Repeat 15 times.
Bikini Walkouts and Tummy Toners
The Tone It Up girls created this move that targets not only your obliques but also your shoulders and legs. The walkout portion keeps you moving and raises your heart rate.
- Start by standing, and then walk your hands out in front of you until you are in the plank position.
- Your hands should be under your shoulders and your body in a straight line.
- Bring your right knee up to your right elbow, doing a side-crunch motion.
- Return to the plank position.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Walk your hands back to your feet, and come back to standing.
- Repeat the entire move 15 times.
High knees are a simple and effective move to include in your core-strengthening program. In fact, this is one of the Tone It Up girls' favorite exercises for boosting your heart rate and strengthening your core.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and your arms bent at your sides, palms down.
- Lift your left knee to touch your left palm.
- Quickly alternate sides, lifting your right knee to touch your right palm.
- Think about pulling your knees up to your palms to work your abs. Don't let your palms reach your knees.
- Repeat 15 times on each side.