I’ll let you in on a little secret: Ab exercises are my fitness kryptonite. As much as I love working out, I go deer-in-headlights at mere mention of the word “sit-up.”
But skipping out on my midsection isn’t an option; core strength is critical — not just for support and stability but, let’s face it, also fitting into this season’s skinny jeans.
My solution? Sneak in core strength training through a series of compound exercises (working several muscles groups at a time), rather than isolation exercises (working one muscle group), thus avoiding a mid-gym meltdown.
Enlisting the help of some innovative new equipment helps, too: Enter the ActivMotion Bar, which I’ve been experimenting with recently thanks to the folks at Fit Approach. It’s a weighted bar filled with rolling steel weights, which creates instability through a fluid-like motion to better challenge your body during some of your typical workout moves.
Got 10 minutes? Try this bar-based core series — perform each of the five exercises below for one minute each, and then repeat the entire circuit.
Use a broomstick in a pinch, a weighted bar at the gym, or invest in an ActivMotion Bar if you want to kick things up a notch for at-home workouts.
1. Walking Lunges
Stand tall with head and feet facing forward and core engaged. Raise bar straight above head, straightening arms but keeping shoulders down. Keeping abs and butt tight to stabilize yourself, slowly step out with right foot into a lunge.
Make sure your knee doesn’t go beyond your toes, and try to keep both legs at 90-degree angles. Pressing into your front heel, lift up to a standing position; alternate sides across the room for 60 seconds.
2. Bar Windmills
Again, start by standing tall with head and feet facing forward and core engaged. Press bar up with right hand, taking care to keep shoulder down and core engaged. Slowly bend to the left side, reaching for your left foot while keeping right arm directly above your right shoulder.
Pause for a beat before rising carefully back to a standing position. Repeat pattern for 30 seconds before switching sides and raising your left arm while bending to the right.
3. Ab Roll-Ups
Lie on the floor with our feet shoulder-width apart, soles of your feet touching the ground, knees bent and core engaged (think about pulling your belly button through your spine and down to the floor). Using both hands, raise the bar above your shoulders — try to keep some softness in your elbow so you don’t lock out the joint.
Slowly roll up, one vertebrae at a time, keeping bar lifted toward the ceiling and core engaged. Once you’re sitting up, slowly lower back down through each vertebrae, keeping bar raised. Repeat for 60 seconds.
4. Kayaker Twist
Sitting on the floor with your feet out in front of you and your knees bent, lift feet a few inches off of the floor (option to modify: keep feet on floor). Lean back slightly, but be sure to use core to keep spine straight — no hunching forward or arching your back.
Hold bar in both hands, and with a steady rowing motion, slowly turn to left side and dip the bar toward the ground. Lift back up and through center before twisting to the right and letting bar dip down on that side. Alternating sides, repeat for 60 seconds.
5. Sumo Side Lean
Take a wide stance with feet slightly turned out. Raise bar straight above head with both hands, taking care to keep shoulders down and back straight. Lower into a sumo squat, checking to make sure that knees are in line with ankles and don’t extend beyond toes.
Slowly lean to left side without twisting; your body should remain in one plane when viewed from the side. Return to starting position and, keeping bar above head, lower to the right side. Repeat, alternating sides, for 60 seconds.
For more information on this product, check out ActivMotion Bar’s website here.
Disclaimer: You’re doing these exercises at your own risk, so please be careful. If you’ve got an injury or concern, it’s best to consult with your health care provider and/or trainer to make sure you’re cleared to work out and are using proper form.