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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 to solely their abs, and while it does relate to the muscles around your torso, the term actually extends to mean the muscles around your arms, hips, and legs, too. A strong core helps with improving your posture, improving back pain and balance, and reducing the risk of injuries while working out. 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. The 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. From side planks to toe touches, we tapped the Tone It Up girls to learn about their go-to core workouts. 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 that you'll want to keep in your back pocket.
Meet the Expert
Safety and Precautions
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 make sure you perform each movement slow and controlled to avoid straining your back.
Before you start the exercise, it is important you brace or tighten your core to not only work your abdominal muscles, but also to support your back. To do this, think about tucking your tailbone under or drawing your navel in towards your back.
Stellate says you may need to make modifications on some of the more advanced exercises until your core improves in strength. Several of these exercises use dumbbells for added resistance, however he says if you can't maintain good form or feel your back tightening up, perform the move 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 in to your chest for a few minutes," he says.
Ready to get started? Keep scrolling for some of the best exercises to tone and sculpt your waistline.
"This move focuses on tightening the internal and external obliques—the areas that commonly host 'love handles'—and lower back," says Stellate, who says to keep this motion slow and controlled.
- Start in a plank position, with 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 the rectus abdominals (what's commonly known as "washboard abs") and the serrate muscles located on the ribcage. "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 from the 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.
- Do 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.
- 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 back to starting position.
- Do 15 reps on each side.
"This is an excellent abdominal exercise for all age groups," says Stellate. This exercise targets both your upper and lower abdominal muscles.
- Start by lying on your back with your legs extended perpendicular to the ground and your feet flexed.
- 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 it 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 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 not only do they tone and strengthen your obliques, they also get your heart rate up which helps to burn fat and 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 straight, 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.
Side Plank Crunch
This exercise is a total-body move that works your obliques, shoulders and hips. Perform the move slow and controlled. 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 wide and repeat.
The Plank-Jack combines two amazing exercises—the plank and the 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 legs straight behind you in a straight line.
- While keeping your hands stationary, jump your feet out to the sides and back together.
- Keep your core engaged throughout the movement.
- Repeat 15 times.
Bikini Walkouts and Tummy Toners
The Tone It Up girls have created this awesome move that not only targets your obliques, but also your shoulders and legs. The “walk out” portion keeps you moving and raises your heart rate so you create lean muscle.
- Start by standing and then walk your hands out in front 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 great addition to your core strengthening program. Not only do they work your core muscles (especially those lower abs!), but they are considered a cardio exercise as well.
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart and with your arms bent at your side, palms down.
- Lift your left knee up to touch your left palm.
- Quickly alternate sides, lifting your right knee to touch your right palm.
- Think about pulling your knees up your palms to really work your abs. Don’t let your palms reach down to your knees.
- Repeat 15 times on each side.