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5 of the best tummy toning exercises

Tags: Exercise, Abs

One of the most common questions I get from clients at my Chelmsford personal training studio is the age old, “What are the best exercises to get a toned stomach?” Whether you want to look good on the beach this summer or just tone up your general physique, it’s hard to deny that ab definition is in.

Before I get started, a word of note – losing stomach fat and toning your stomach are not the same thing. You can do all of the stomach toning exercises in the world, but if you’re still carrying a little excess fat around your middle, you’re not going to be able to see the results. I’ll be writing another post about losing belly fat soon, so make sure you look out for that.

In the meantime, here are five of the best exercises for abs. You might find it useful to invest in a yoga or training mat to make these as comfortable as possible.

1. Russian Twists

Sit on the mat with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent. Now lean back so that your body is at a 45-degree angle to the mat, maintaining your leg position so that your heels are raised about six inches off of the floor. Clasp your hands in front of you and twist your upper body to the left as far as you can and then to the right. Make sure to keep your head facing forwards and your legs still. If you find this too hard, try putting your feet on the floor. If it’s too easy, you can hold a small weight in your hands as you twist for the ultimate ab workout!

Duration: Between 30 and 60 seconds.

What it’s good for: This exercise is great for toning your obliques – those are the muscles at the side of your abs.

2. Plank

Sorry to disappoint those of you who were desperately hoping that the plank wouldn’t be featured in this article, but there’s no avoiding it! If you haven’t tried a plank before, it’s time to get familiar with it, because it’s a staple part of any tummy toning exercise regime. To assume the plank position, get on your hands and knees, and lower yourself so that your forearms are flat along the floor. Now take your weight off of your knees and place it onto your toes, ensuring that your legs and back are straight. That’s the position you need to hold. Sound easy? If you can hold it for a minute then you’re doing well! If you find this too difficult, try lowering yourself onto your knees.

Duration: Between 30 and 90 seconds.

What it’s good for: This exercise is a great way to target not only your abs, but your whole body. It’ll also help with balance!

3. Bicycle legs

The one bicycle exercise you don’t need to pass your cycling proficiency test for! Lie flat on your back and raise your feet six inches off of the floor. Now bring your right knee up to your chest. As you do so, lift your shoulders off of the floor and bring your left elbow to your right knee. Then do the same with your right elbow and your left knee while returning your right leg to the starting position. The result is that you should look like you’re cycling while lying down!

Duration: 30 to 60 seconds.

What it’s good for: This is a good all-rounder. It’s a great exercise for your abs – especially your lower abs – your obliques, your hips and your thighs!

4. Hand to toe pulses

Lie flat on your back and raise your legs straight into the air so that they’re pointing towards the ceiling at a 90-degree angle to your body. Now straighten your arms above you and reach towards your toes. As you move forward, you will need to lift your head and shoulders from the ground. You can also lift your pelvis slightly to bring your toes closer to your fingertips. Once you’ve hit the apex of your reach, lower your shoulders back to the ground. This is one rep. If this is a bit too difficult for you, try placing your feet flat on the ground so that your knees are bent, and reach up past your knees instead.

Duration: 30 to 60 seconds.

What it’s good for: This is another great exercise for your core and focuses on your lower abdominals.

5. Scissor leg lowers

Those of you who enjoy a good lie-down mid workout will be pleased to hear that this one also involves starting flat on your back! Who knew that so many of the best exercises for a toned stomach involved lying down? Assume the same starting position you used for your hand to toe pulses with your legs pointing straight up and your arms flat on the floor at your sides. Now, keep your right leg straight and lower it until it’s as close to the floor as you can get it without your back arching – if your back starts to arch, don’t go so low with your right leg. Make sure you keep your left leg pointing towards the ceiling during this motion. Now bring your right leg back up to the starting position as you lower your left leg towards the floor. Keep scissoring them back and forth, focussing on lowering your legs in a slow, controlled manner. If this exercise puts too much strain on your lower back, place a small pilates ball under your lower back or bottom.

Duration: 30 to 60 seconds.

What it’s good for: This exercise helps to build really strong lower abs.

If you keep each of the above exercises in rotation, you’ll target all of the muscle groups in your abdominals. If you get to a point where you’re finding them a bit too easy you can try increasing the duration, or even combining them. For example – try doing the bicycle legs and the scissor leg lowers back to back, without touching your heels to the floor in between exercises. Do this routine a few times a week and you’ll be well on your way to getting a toned stomach.

Look out for my next blog post on losing belly fat, and don’t forget to get in touch if you’d like to book a 1:1 or group personal training session.