Stay fit and motivated in the comforts of home.
If you’re working from home, or perhaps just transitioned into it, you might find that it’s harder than ever to stay fit, especially now that COVID-19 has kept many of us away from our gyms and favorite outdoor activities. But that shouldn’t be a reason to abandon staying in shape, more so if it can be done at home.
Working out at home certainly has its perks, and it’s a great way to instantly invigorate your mind and body after sitting at a desk for long periods. To get you started, we’ve rounded up five great ab workouts you can easily do at home with nothing but a mat, a dumbbell or exercise ball, and your favorite music blasting on your workout headphones. So, let’s get to it.
1. Prone Plank
How to do it: A basic prone plank is done by assuming a push-up position - palms shoulder-width apart on the floor, arms extended, and legs straight - and then holding that form anywhere from 15 seconds to one minute, depending on your fitness level. Keep your midsection tight as letting it sag can lead to back pain later on.
- Side planks: If you want to target your obliques, lie on your side, and then prop yourself up on one forearm. Keeping your legs straight, raise your hips until your body forms a diagonal straight line. You can either keep both feet on the ground or stack one on top of the other. To increase the intensity, lift your other arm straight up in the air.
- One-arm extensions: Starting from the basic prone plank position, fully extend one arm in front of you and alternate doing this between both arms until time runs out.
Planks aren’t just about your abs or your core muscles - it’s a whole-body workout. While doing this exercise, you’ll notice the muscles in your arms, back, and legs are all engaged as you try to maintain the proper position. In strengthening these muscles, you’re improving your posture, stability, and decreasing your risk of injury.
2. Russian Twists
How to do it: Start from a seated position on the floor with your legs semi-extended forward. Beginners can keep their feet on the floor, but if you’re moderately fit, you can raise both feet a few inches off the ground so that your body forms a V shape. Begin the exercise by steadily twisting your upper body towards each side while maintaining a straight back.
- Weighted twists: For a more intense burn, you can hold an exercise ball or dumbbell in your hands as you do your twists.
- Punch twists: If you want to increase difficulty without using added weight, you can do so by doing alternating one-arm extensions with each twist, like you’re punching the air.
Russian twists address those so-called “love handles” and “muffin tops” by isolating and engaging all the abdominal muscles, such as the internal and external obliques, the rectus abdominis (also known as the “six-pack”), and the transverse abdominis, which is the underlying abdominal muscle that protects your spine. It also improves posture and balance.
3. Bicycle Crunches
How to do it: Start by lying down with both feet evenly planted on the floor. Gently place both hands behind your head and keep your elbows wide. Raise both knees, then straighten out your left leg at a 45-degree angle. As you’re doing this, twist your upper body towards the right, until your left elbow touches your right knee. Go back to the center and then repeat on the other side.
- Standing bicycle crunch: Simply perform the same motions from a standing position, bringing one knee up and curling over to let your opposite elbow touch it.
- Hollow hold bicycle crunch: For more of a challenge, rather than resting your feet and shoulders back down on the floor between reps, keep them lifted as you switch sides.
Like the Russian twists, bicycle crunches also engage all the abdominal muscles, particularly the upper ab muscles. There’s also the added bonus of a leg workout as the cycling motion engages your thighs, hamstrings, and quads.
4. Leg Raises
How to do it: Begin by lying down on the floor facing upwards, then slide your hands, palms down, under your lower back and glutes. Lift both legs up while keeping them straight and close together. Keep raising them until you feel the stretch on your hamstrings, then bring them back down to the floor.
- Modified leg raises: To increase the difficulty, try holding your legs a few inches off the floor every time you bring your legs down at the end of the rep, instead of fully resting them on the floor.
- Leg raise crunches: To feel that extra burn, you can further modify the exercise by adding crunches. You can do this by simultaneously lifting your upper body and legs so that they’re both suspended in a V shape, and hold the position.
Leg raises at high repetitions can be an effective fat-burning workout, particularly for the lower abdominal region. It also helps strengthen your hip flexors and improves the overall mobility and flexibility of the hip area.
5. Mountain Climbers
How to do it: Start from a prone plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart. Bring your right knee up as close to your chest as you can manage, bring it back to its original position, then repeat the move with the other leg. Try not to let your toes touch the floor when you bring your knees up.
- Switch-foot mountain climbers: For a more challenging version of this, when pulling up your knee to your chest, instead of bringing it back down and then switching to the other leg, make the switch simultaneous. It’s like a mid-air switch wherein in bent leg goes back while you bring the other leg up.
Aside from being an excellent workout for your core, it also increases cardio endurance and engages your arms, legs, chest, and back muscles in a full-body workout.
Some of the best full-body workouts are relatively low maintenance and very effective. Even with minimal space and equipment, often just using your own body weight, you can undoubtedly achieve a great workout at home.