We asked fitness expert and certified personal trainer Kira Stokes (who has a six-pack most can only dream of) to show us some of her favorite moves to hit those hidden muscles.
The key? Put your legs and your brain into it. “Anytime you move your legs, you’re working your lower abdomen,” Stokes says, since they’re connected by the hip flexors. Unfortunately, most of us feel these exercises mainly in the hip flexor, which can take away from working the abs, not to mention be pretty uncomfortable. “The low abdomen takes so much mental focus,” she says. Putting your brain into the muscle group is key, by constantly focusing on your lower abs and making sure you feel them engaged in every move.
Before you go any further, you’ll want to make sure you’ve got a classic plank position down pat, since many of these moves are based off it. To plank perfectly, Stokes says prop yourself up on your feet and forearms, with your shoulders rolling down your back. Squeeze the butt cheeks and draw the navel in. Be careful not to arch your back — your whole torso should stay in a straight line. Got it? Time to whip your tummy into shape.
“Think of cleaning the floor and wanting to get it done as fast as possible,” Stokes says. The key is to really press down on the gliders to create friction between the glider and the floor — that’s what really gets your core engaged. If you just let them fly, you’ll only be working your hip flexors. This move works your entire rectus abdominus, Stokes notes, so you’re getting both a stretch and building strength, which is rare for core workouts.
3.One-Legged Mountain Climber
In this move, your abdominal wall is contracted on one side by holding the knee in tight and the other side is more active so both sides are working. “They’re hard,” Stokes admits. “It’s more about the quality of your movement than necessarily the quantity,” so start out with fewer reps if that’s what it takes to do them correctly.
To get into position, first sit on the floor on your tailbone, as if you are about to lower back into a sit-up position, with a ball (you can sub a T-shirt or pillow, too) squeezed tightly between your thighs. “When you hold something [here] and squeeze, you engage the inner thigh which works more through the low abdomen,” Stokes says. Rest on your elbows and make sure to maintain that height throughout. Arch your back into a small stretch, tuck the tailbone and drive the low back down. Pick your elbows up and hold onto the backs of your thighs. Keep shoulders down, chin open and elbows wide. This is the c-curve position.
From here, grab a set of light weights (soup cans work, too!) and hold arms out by your knees. Lower arms and tap the ground, then lift back to start position. Repeat as you hold the c-curve for 60 to 90 seconds, concentrating on the arm movements the entire time. You can even do bicep curls instead, Stokes says. “Anything to take your mind off the fact your abs are burning.”
“This move works your whole transverse abdominus, and again, you’re moving the legs so you’re working the lower abdomen,” Stokes says.
8.Six Pack Scissor
“Pace is last thing to be concerned about,” Stokes says. “Slower is better, slower is harder.” Again, going for quality over quantity is how you are really going to safely and effectively sculpt your muscles.
featured image source:myprotein