Aka core strengthening moves you can do without switching off Netflix. What's not to love?
Ab toning exercises may sound super daunting, but if you’re looking to strengthen your core with some ab-focused moves, you’re in the right place. We’ve written a handy guide to the best core exercises you can do from the comfort of your home – with help from a qualified personal trainer, so you know the advice is legit.
Note here: you don’t need to tone your abs. Mad sounding diets like the 4:3 diet, 5:2 diet, and Dukan diet are already circling social media. Don’t feel pressured, with summer coming up, to lose weight or change your body. You are enough as you are.
But if you do want to build strength, or add a new set of workout moves to your repertoire, and can approach it from a positive mind space, these moves could help you build said strength, tone your abdominal muscles, and support your overall wellbeing.
Don’t fret: if you can’t be bothered to venture outside, these ab toning moves are doable from your living room, bedroom, hallway, heck, even your kitchen. You need never search the internet for free home workouts and no kit sweat sessions again.
Keep reading for pro advice from personal trainer, Pilates instructor and barre specialist Aimee Victoria Long.
Why is having a strong core so important?
“Your core muscles play a huge role in your everyday activities, from getting out of bed, to walking, to bending over. Most importantly, they literally help you stay upright and support the skeletal system,” explains Long.
So not only will toning your abs likely bring you aesthetic gains, if that’s what you’re after, but they’ll help support your body through your day-to-day life, too.
Do note here though: if you’re really keen to get a toned stomach like your best mate or, ahem, Kayla Itsines, everyone’s abs will look different. Even if you train your core consistently, your ‘abs’ may still not be visible, explains Long.
Why? Well, because how visible your abs are is a combination of the right training, your genetic predisposition and low enough body fat. “Lowering you body fat is going to mean you are leaner making your core look more defined,” explains the PT.
What are the best ab toning exercises?
When it comes to training your core, don’t just think sit-ups and crunches, Long advises. “Some of the most effective moves to build core strength are actually compound moves like squats, deadlifts, shoulder presses, and pull ups. Performed correctly, these exercises will strengthen your core and the rest of your body,” she explains.
However, to compliment this, you can specifically train your core, she shares. Not sure what workouts to do pre your ab-toning moves? Scroll our round ups of the best free home workouts, best no kit workouts, and our guide to strength training for women, too.
Do be careful with your form – if you carry out any workout moves incorrectly, you could end up injuring yourself.
“You can put unnecessary pressure on your spine,” long explains. So, bottom line, be careful, and, top tip, do look up form tutorials on YouTube, if you’re not sure if you’re doing a move correctly.
13 best ab toning exercises for beginners
Long has approved the following moves – so know that they’re not just any old ab moves, but PT-approved ab toning exercises. As above, try the following once, twice or three times a week to complement your main workouts. It shouldn’t take any longer than ten minutes or so.
Lie flat on your back with your arms extended towards the ceiling. Then lift your legs and bend your knees at 90° so your lower legs are parallel with the floor. Engage your core and draw your belly button in to get your back as flat against the floor as possible – you shouldn’t be able to get a hand in between your back and the floor, and you need to maintain this throughout. This means your core is engaged.
Slowly lower your right arm behind your head and extend your left leg forwards at the same time, exhaling as you go. Keep going until your arm and leg are just above the floor, being careful not to raise your back off the floor (this is key) then, as you inhale, slowly return to the starting position and repeat with the opposite limbs.
Plank shoulder taps
In a high plank position with palms on floor, take your left hand off the floor and tap your right shoulder lower your left hand back to the floor and repeat on the other side. Making sure you aren’t letting your hips rock from side to side. Aim to perform for 30 seconds.
Lying on you back place your hands by the side of your bum. Stretch the legs out fully. Raise both legs off the floor and bring up to a 90 degree angle. Making sure that your spine remains in contact with the floor the whole time.
To make exercise harder slow down the time it takes for you to lower your feet down to the floor
Lying on your back, place the soles of your feet together. Raise your legs high up off the bed to create a ‘butterfly’ shape. Crunch up towards your legs. Repeat 10 times.
Lying flat on the bed, stretch your legs straight and your arms straight above your head. Very slowly, lift yourself up to a sitting position, reaching your arms down as if to touch your toes. Very slowly, as you count to five, lower yourself back down on the bed, back into a flat position. Repeat 10 times.
While in regular plank stance (aka holding your body in a straight line while balancing on the balls of your toes and elbows), lift your hips up high and bend your body to create an arch. Hold for two seconds and then lower your hips back down. Repeat 10 times.
Quick ab toning exercises
Lying on your back, stretch your legs straight and your arms straight above your head. Slowly raise your legs and arms up, bending at the waist. Reach your hands toward your feet creating a ‘V’ shape with your body. Repeat 10 times.
Lying on your back, bend your knees and place your hands behind your head, elbows bent. Raise your legs up into the air and one at a time, pull one knee forward while raising up to crunch the opposite elbow towards that knee. Continue ‘pedalling’, crunching the left elbow towards the right knee and the right elbow toward the left knee. Crunch 25 times on both sides.
Stack two pillows at the foot of your bed. Lie flat on the bed with your feet elevated and cross your arms over your chest. Breathe in deeply as you pull your stomach in towards your back. Breathe out as you lift your upper body towards your feet. Breathe in as you lie down again. Relax your muscles then repeat 5 times.
Similar to the regular plank, lying on your stomach, lift up on your elbows. Spread your legs wide and then lift up on your toes, holding body as straight as possible in this position. Hold for at least 15 seconds and then release. Repeat three times.
Lying on your back, place your hands down flat on the bed, palms down. Keeping your legs straight, lift your right leg off the bed and rotate it in the widest circle you possibly can; bringing your foot down, almost to where it touches the bed, then around to the side and back to center. While you are rotating your foot, keep your ab muscles tight in order to control the rotation of your foot in a slow and controlled manner. Circle your right leg 10 times then repeat on the other side.
While in regular plank stance, roll your hips to the side, propping yourself up on the side of your right foot. Hold your body straight, propped up on your right foot and right elbow for 15 seconds and then release. Switch to the left side and repeat.
Ab toning exercises with weights
Want an extra challenge? Grab a can of beans from the kitchen cupboard to use as a makeshift weight for this one:
Sitting on your back, pull yourself gently upwards so your feet and torso are raised. Then holding a weight with both hands, twist your torso to the right side so your arms are parallel with the floor, the move back into the centre and repeat on the left. Do this ten times.