Get your heart rate up, then build strong abs.

By Mary Anderson
March 19, 2020

For your strongest core, you can plank for days, sure, but because your core muscles make up the entirety of your middle (including your back!), you'll want to fire up muscles from all angles.

“A combination of compound movements and mat exercises focused on your core is the perfect formula,” says Molly Day, a group fitness instructor at Equinox in New York. With compound moves like squat jumps and bent-over flyes, "you’re using your core to stabilize your body, so your limbs can perform the primary movements," she says. Such exercises build functional strength in your core. Finishing with targeted core moves will help truly fatigue these tough-to-tire ab muscles. (See: The Importance of a Strong Core—Besides Six-Pack Abs)

Day has put together these best practices for sculpting your core in the latest Shape Studio workout. Follow along as she leads you through a circuit of her top ab-strengthening exercises sampled from Equinox club’s popular Choreo Cult class, which is all about cutting ~loose~ while building muscle.

Follow along with the video, or check out the moves below.

Dance Cardio Combo

How it works: Practice the three movements below, trying them each for about 30 seconds. Once you've mastered those, try putting them together in a combination: 4 Step-Throughs, 2 Step Kicks, and 4 Cha-Cha Shuffles. Turn on your favorite upbeat song, and see if you can repeat the combo for the whole thing.

Step-Through with High-Knee

A. Start standing with feet together and arms by sides.

B. Step the right foot out to the side, then punch right arm around in a circle while driving the left knee up toward chest and pivoting on foot to face diagonally left.

C. Land on the left foot to repeat on the opposite side, punching with the left arm and driving the right knee up toward chest, pivoting to face diagonally right.

Repeat for 30 seconds.

Step Kick

A. Start standing with feet together and arms by sides.

B. Step diagonally to the left, crossing hands in front of chest. Kick the right leg up as high as comfortable, and extend arms on a diagonal.

C. Return hands to front of chest while stepping back onto the right foot. Step with the left foot, crossing it over the right, and then take a third step to the right diagonal with the right foot.

D. Kick the left leg up as high as is comfortable, while extending arms on a diagonal.

Repeat for 30 seconds.

Cha-Cha Shuffle

A. Start standing with feet together and arms by sides.

B. Take a small step to the right with the right foot, then a small step to the right with the left foot, then drive left knee up toward chest while extending the right arm diagonally down over the left leg.

C. Land on the left foot to repeat on the opposite side, taking two small steps, then lifting the right knee and extending the left arm diagonally over the right knee.

Repeat for 30 seconds.

Core Floor Work

How it works: Do each move for the indicated number of reps (or more!) to burn out your abs. You only need to do one round. (But if your abs aren't totally dead, try for another!)

Bicycle Crunches

A. Lie face-up on the floor with legs extended and arms behind head, elbows wide. Lift shoulders and feet off the floor to start. (Optional: Loop a mini resistance band around the arches of both feet.)

B. Drive the right knee in toward chest and rotate left elbow to meet right knee.

C. Switch sides, extending right leg long and driving left knee in toward chest, rotating right elbow to touch.

Try for 20-30 reps, or repeat until you can't do anymore. 

In & Outs with Band

A. Lie face-up on the floor with legs extended and arms extended overhead, biceps by ears. Lift shoulders and feet off the floor to start. (Optional: Loop a mini resistance band around the arches of both feet.)

B. Circle arms out to the sides and crunch knees in to form a ball with the body, lifting head to look toward belly button.

C. Then extend arms and legs without lowering to the floor to return to start.

Try for 20-30 reps, or repeat until you can't do anymore.

Single-Leg Glute Bridge with Band

A. Lie face-up with feet planted on the floor. Extend the right leg straight up toward the ceiling. (Optional: Loop a mini resistance band around thighs just below knees.)

B. Tuck hips under, then press into the leg foot to lift hips, keeping right leg lifted.

C. Slowly lower hips to the floor.

Try for 10-20 reps, or repeat until you can't do anymore. Switch sides; repeat.

Source: Shape April 2020 issue
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