Back Up Your Six-Pack
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Don't just work the muscles you can see in the mirror—to build a strong, symmetrical midsection, pair two opposing moves into one powerful superset! In this bodyweight circuit from fitness expert Jessica Smith, every effective abs exercise is matched up with balancing back move. This not only is a smart training strategy for sculpting a rock-solid core, it also helps prevent back pain and promotes perfect posture.
How it works: Up to four days a week, do these moves after a cardio session, or add them into your existing strength routine. Do 1 set of each exercise in the first pair back to back, and then repeat both moves 2 more times (3x total) before moving on to the next duo. Repeat this pattern until you've done 3 sets of each pair.
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1A: Recline Roll-Up
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Sit with legs extended (knees slightly bent), hip-width apart and feet flexed, hands behind head. Brace abs in tight and keep back naturally straight as you hinge back, pressing heels into the floor.
Continue to lean back until you are no longer able to keep back straight. Then round back, gently rolling through spine, lowering your body all the way down to floor. Begin to roll up by lifting head, neck, and shoulders (imagine peeling each vertebrae off the floor as you round up), gradually bringing body up until you can round chest forward over legs at the top of the movement. Return to start position. Repeat 10 times total, and then move on to the second exercise in this pair.
1B: Extending Reach
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Lie facedown with legs extended and hip-width apart, toes pointed, hands behind head. Extend spine and lift chest off the floor, keeping eyes focused on the floor to avoid neck strain.
Lift thighs off the floor, reaching arms back towards feet (thumbs facing up), lifting chest higher off the ground and squeezing shoulder blades together.
Return hands to head and toes to the floor, and then lower all the way down to starting position. Repeat 10 times total. Do 3 sets of both moves in this pair (1A + 1B) before moving on to exercise 2A.
2A: Bicycle Pump
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Reps: 10 per side
Lie faceup with knees bent into chest, hands behind head. Extend left leg out straight, almost parallel to the floor. Lift left shoulder across towards right knee, pulling abs in tight.
Lift legs in closer towards chest, drawing left shoulder closer into right knee (avoid pulling on head, closing elbows in during the lift).
Switch and repeat to other side. Do 10 reps on each side, or 20 alternating reps total.
2B: Quadruped Rotation
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Reps: 10 per side
From an all fours position, bring left hand behind head and lower left elbow to right arm. Slowly rotate torso to the left, turning shoulders, opening elbow up, and gazing up at the ceiling. Return to start. Repeat 10 times in a row, then switch and do 10 reps to the other side.
3A: Pike Climb
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Reps: 10 per side
From an elbow plank position, brace abs in tight and pike hips up to ceiling as you press chest back towards feet.
Keeping abs pulled in tight, lower hips back to plank position as right knee bends to the outside of right elbow. Step right foot back to plank as hips pike back up to ceiling. Next, draw left knee to left elbow as hips lower. Do 10 reps on each side, or 20 alternating reps total.
3B: Kneeling Deadlift
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Kneel with hands behind head, toes pointed, creating a straight line from knees to head. Keeping spine naturally arched, lean forward (as if bowing), pushing hips back, lowering chest until almost parallel to the ground. Return to start position, maintaining a flat back the entire time. Repeat 10 times total, slowly and with control.
Note: If your knees need more cushioning, try folding a yoga mat or towel under them for extra padding.