If you’re looking to tighten up your abs or improve your core strength, you’ll get more out of your session by keeping your midsection muscles under tension for as long as possible. That means long sets of exercises with minimal rest breaks between them, or even no rest at all, if you have the core strength and stamina.
This five-move abs series from Kate Burdett, head of training at London pilates studio Raw Pilates (opens in new tab), contains no rest breaks and as the starting positions for all the moves are similar you can transition from one to the next immediately. The five highly effective exercises hit your abs from all angles, and if you have anything left after your first run through the sequence, you can move straight on to another round to truly tire out your core muscles.
It’s well-suited to doing at home too, because you only need the space to lie down and you stay lying on your back throughout so your neighbours won’t complain about you hearing you work up a sweat.
1 Single-leg stretch
Reps 6-8 each side
Lie on your back and lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor. Pull your right knee to your chest with both hands on the shin and lift your extended left leg to a high diagonal. Switch legs, exhaling deeply as you do.
2 Double-leg stretch
Keep your head, neck and shoulders raised. Pull your knees to your chest and place your hands low on the shins. Then, reach your arms up to the ceiling and stretch your legs out on a diagonal. Circle your arms, then hug your knees to your chest again. Breathe in on the reach and exhale on the hug.
Reps 6-8 each side
Raise both legs so they’re pointing towards the ceiling and flex your feet, then lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor. Keeping both legs straight, take hold of the right leg with both hands and draw it towards you for a stretch while lowering the left leg. Alternate legs with each rep.
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4 Double-leg lower
Lift your head, neck and shoulders off the floor and place your hands behind your head with your elbows pointing out to the sides. Lift your legs so they’re pointing towards the ceiling, keeping your heels together and legs extended. To make it easier, adopt the tabletop position with your knees bent at 90°. Lower your legs over the count of three, then bring them back up over a one-count.
Move your legs into the tabletop position. Place your hands behind your head and raise it. Start by twisting the right side of your upper body towards your left knee and curling up. While you are doing this, extend your right leg. Then switch sides. Remember the opposite shoulder always goes towards the opposite knee.
Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.
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