Abs are important. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Because, while we can hone our glutes, perfect our planks and bulk out our biceps until our protein powder runs dry — it’s your six-packing, attention-grabbing abs that will turn heads come beach season.
So, if you’ve enjoyed one pint too many during the excitement of the Euros, never fear. We’ve called upon two expert fitness trainers — Jason Bone of Flex Chelsea and KOBOX‘s Connor Clachar — to discover the top ab-building exercises for summer. So warm up — and take a look below…
To loosen your hips, try the 'Butterfly Sit Up'
Head of Strength at Flex Chelsea, Jason Bone is a guy who knows a thing or two about toning and honing. Trust us when we say he really knows his stuff — and his abs. “Butterfly Sit Ups are a great exercise if you have tight hips, as they open up your hip rotators and will also provide a full contraction on your abs,” he explains.
- Lying on your back, bend your knees and place the bottom of your feet together.
- Start with your hands above your head: and as you sit up, reach your hands between your feet.
For increased time-under-tension, try the 'Reverse Crunch'
If you’re a regular at KOBOX, you might have seen trainer Connor Clachar leading a class or two: but his expertise is by no means restricted to boxing. He’s a fount of knowledge on all things fitness; and abs in particular.
“For me, reverse crunches are even better than the standard crunch we have all come to know about,” he explains. “This move keeps your muscles under tension for a longer period (TUT — time under tension), and hits the tricky lower abs that we all find particularly hard to reach.”
- To perform this exercise, you need to lie down and raise your legs so your thighs are vertical and the knees are bent at a 90° angle.
- Embracing the abs, pull your knees to your chest and raise your hips off the floor, then slowly lower your legs back to the start: maintaining the same tempo throughout the movement from start to finish.
For added rotation, try the 'Starfish Sit Up'
“The great thing about a starfish sit up is you add rotation to your sit up whilst stretching your chest and shoulders,” advises Jason Bone.
- Lie on your back with your arms and legs stretched out (like a starfish!).
- Keep one hand and the opposite foot on the floor, and allow the opposite hand and foot to meet at the top.
- Come back down and change to the other side.
- The aim is to keep both arms and legs straight throughout the exercise.
If you're introducing equipment, try some 'Ab-Roller Extensions'
“I hope everyone has an abdominal roller on hand for this one, because this could be my favourite exercise of all time,” reveals Connor Clachar.
- Using an abdominal roller, kneel down onto a soft surface and grab the roller with your hands just wider than shoulder-width.
- Start by slowly rolling the ab roller away from your knees.
- It’s crucial to have your hips forward so your knees, hips and shoulders all align as one.
- Once you have control when rolling away, make sure to only go as far as feels comfortable.
- Try to avoid pushing your hips in the air on the way back — this defeats the purpose of the exercise.
To work out your obliques, do some 'Bicycle Crunches'
“Bicycle crunches are a great way to work your deeper abdominal muscles, as well as your obliques,” says Jason Bone.
- Start on your back with your fingers on your temples, knees bent and feet off the floor.
- Contract your abs. As you straighten one leg out towards the floor, rotate the opposite elbow to the knee, bring the leg back up and repeat on the opposite side.
To hit your lower abs, do some 'Leg Raises'
“This is a very simple movement, but really engages your lower abs,” adds Connor Clachar.
- Lie down flat on your back on the ground.
- Keeping your legs as straight as possible, raise them until they’re vertical (or as close to vertical as you can get). Lower them slowly, and repeat.
- If you feel any discomfort in your lower back, place your hands under the glutes to help support it.
To combat back pain and work your lower abs, try 'Knee Raises'
“There are many benefits to the lying knee raise: this is one of the few exercises that will target the lower abs, improve mobility in your hips and help prevent lower back pain,” explains Jason Bone.
- For lying knee raises, start on your back with your arms by your side, your knees bent and your feet off the floor.
- Begin by tilting your pelvis up, and then raise your hips off the floor: try to keep your knees above your hips, rather than pushing them towards your chest.
- Control the hips and legs back down to your original position.
For a hardcore core workout, do some 'Windscreen Wipers'
“This movement may remind you of the leg raises; but now, we’re looking to progress the movement,” says Connor Clachar.
- Lie flat on your back with your legs stretched out in front of you, arms by your side and palms flat on the floor.
- Engage your core by pulling your belly button to your spine, and — with your lower back firmly pressed into the floor — slowly raise your legs to a 90-degree angle, toes pointed to the ceiling.
- Twisting from the hip, keeping your back and arms on the floor, lower your legs down towards the right, but don’t touch the floor (remember: the floor is lava).
- By embracing your core, bring your legs back to the start position before lowering down to the left.
- Now you can understand why these are called Windscreen Wipers!