A 31-day abdominal workout plan for summer — no crunches required
Tone your midsection in under 30 minutes a day.
Unlike other muscle groups, the abdominals can be worked every single day since they're comprised of smaller muscles than your legs, back and arms.Daniel Grill / Getty Images
By Stephanie Mansour
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Panicking about bathing suit season? If the warmer weather has you feeling anxious about showing more skin (specifically, in your midsection), we have a workout plan for you.
Did you know that unlike other muscle groups, the abdominals can be worked every single day? Since your abs are comprised of smaller muscles than your legs, back and arms, you can work them consistently without rest. Couple a daily ab workout with cardio a few times a week, and you’ll be on your way to feeling tighter and toned this swimsuit season.
Generally speaking, it’s difficult to spot reduce fat, but when you’re consistently working the muscles in the mid-section and waist you’ll definitely be able to feel and see more definition. Muscle burns fat, so adding more muscle tone will help with fat loss all over the body. When we add in cardio to help speed up the metabolism, increase the heart rate, and improve circulation as well as burn calories, you’ve got a doable workout plan that will deliver fast results.
When designing workout routines for my clients, we always end every workout with an ab routine. I generally recommend doing 40 repetitions of abs, or picking 4 exercises and doing 10 repetitions of each.
Since summer is quickly approaching, we’re going to up the ante for this month’s workout plan. Below you’ll find three variations of ab workouts: traditional ab exercises performed lying on your back, plank ab exercises, and exercises performed with a fitness ball. Perform 10 repetitions of each exercise in each category.
Since ab exercises in plank require more shoulders, chest and upper back work, this is the only variation that we’ll do every other day instead of daily. Add in 15 minutes of interval cardio three times each week, and you have a workout plan for May that you can do in under 30 minutes a day.
Starting on Day 14, you can add a few props to this core workout to up the intensity (or if you've already been working your core and building abdominal strength, add them right away from Day 1!). During the Back Abs routine, you can use a resistance band around your outer thighs for the Alternate Ankle Reach and Butt Lift, which will work the outer thighs and hips. You can also place the resistance band around your forearms during the Plank Abs routine for the Elbow Knee Crunch, Plank Pike and the Mountain Climbers to work the upper arms.
You can also add a dumbbell to certain moves. In the Back Ab routine, hold a 5-pound dumbbell above your chest and reach the weight up towards your toes during the Butt Lifts, Leg Circles and Scissors. In the Plank Ab routine add weight to the Side Twist. Hold the weight in the right hand as you twist up into a left side plank. As you thread the right arm underneath your left side, bring the weight with you for more of a challenge.
Lying down on your back with your knees bent, engage your lower abs by drawing your naval in towards your spine. Then slowly curl up into a crunch position, and reach your right hand towards your right ankle and crunch the right side engaging the obliques. Then come back towards center and reach the left hand to the left side. Alternate reaching towards each ankle, performing 10 crunches to each side.
Start with your legs straight up towards the ceiling and draw your naval in towards your spine. Lower the legs down a few inches, and then open the legs out to the sides and back up to the ceiling, drawing a circle with your feet. Make a circle 10 times; keep the low back pressing into the ground the whole time.
Start with your legs straight up towards the ceiling and engage your lower abs. Pull your abs down so much that you pop your butt up off of the ground. Repeat this 10 times keeping your legs and feet reaching straight up to the ceiling.
For a modification, bend your knees at a 90 degree angle and then left the butt up off of the ground.
Place your hands behind your head and straighten your legs up towards the ceiling. As you curl up, raising your head and neck off the ground, lower the right leg down towards the ground and then switch and lower the left leg down. Alternate for 10 times on each leg.
Pulling your naval in, crunch your right knee to the right elbow and then return to a plank position, placing the right foot back down on the ground. Alternate to the left side and crunch the left knee to the left elbow. This is working the side of the waist. Repeat 10 times on each side.
From a plank position, engage your core to lift your butt up towards the ceiling into a downward facing dog. By moving between plank and downward dog you are using this exercise as a strength training exercise for the core rather than a traditional stretch in downward facing dog. Repeat this 10 times, moving from plank to downward facing dog back to plank.
From plank, turn into a side plank with the left hand on the ground and the right hand on the hip. Then reach the right arm up to reach towards the ceiling. Twist to thread the right arm underneath the left side of your body. Come back to side plank. Repeat 10 times on this side, and then switch to the other side and perform 10 times on the right. For a modification, lower down onto your left knee to make this easier as you do the side twist.
Cardio: Mountain Climbers
From plank, step the right foot in between the hands and then step it back to plank. Repeat with the left foot. Keep alternating; the faster you go, the more intense this exercise will be!
Position: varies; exercises utilize a fitness ball
V-Sit with a Ball
Lying on your back, hold the ball in your hands and reach your legs up towards the ceiling. Keep your lower abs and entire core engaged as you lower the legs down towards the ground and reach the arms holding the ball back overhead. Then curl up to a seated position and put the ball in between the ankles. Lower back down, as you lower the legs holding the ball down towards the ground and reach the arms overhead. Repeat this 10 times.
Moving Plank on the Ball
Get into a forearm plank position, balancing your forearms on the ball and your feet on the ground. Make sure your back is not sagging and your shoulders are straight. Then, move the ball with your forearms slightly forward a few inches, then return back to the starting position. Repeat this 10 times to work the lower abs.
Stability Ball Side Bend
Rest your left hip on the ball so that you are lying on your side. Step your left foot forward, using a wall or another sturdy object for support. Bend the right knee and rest your right foot slightly in back of the left leg. Place your hands behind your head and reach up and over to the right side cinching the right side waist. Then lower back down to the starting position. Repeat 10 times on this side before switching to the other side.
Cardio: Plank Rolls with Fitness Ball
Get into a plank position on the ball by placing the tops of your ankles (think: shoes lace) on the ball and your hands on the ground. Pike your hips up as you roll the ball towards your arms and head, engaging your abs. Then press the legs and ball back out. Repeat this 10 times. If this is too difficult, you can simply hold the position without doing the plank roll.
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Stephanie Mansour is a health and fitness expert and weight-loss coach for women. She is a certified personal trainer, yoga instructor and Pilates instructor, and host of “Step It Up with Steph” on American Public Television.