Some people want leaner legs, others might strive for broader shoulders, but one thing almost everyone wants is a good set of abs… and to find a great muffin-top workout!

What are Abs?

‘Abs’, short for ‘abdominal muscles’, are actually comprised of the Transverse Abdominis, Internal and External Obliques and Rectus Abdominis.

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These work together with all the muscles in your back to stabilise your spine and provide the necessary strength and flexibility to bend, stretch, rotate, push (an awkward and full shopping trolley), pull (a heavy door open), lift (a crying child) and carry (a suitcase).

What most gym-goers and exercise fans (or newbies) are actually referring to is the visibility of the Rectus Abdominis muscles which form ‘sections’ down the front of the torso. More commonly known as the six-pack.

Why don’t fit people always have a six-pack? Because the other side of the equation is that no matter how strong and ‘toned’ your abdominal muscles, if there is a layer of fat covering them they won’t be seen, so aiming to burn fat through achieving a calorie deficit is also necessary if you want your six-pack to be visible.

Muffin-Top Workout

Also known as part of the ‘core’ because these muscles are part of the core of our body, past advice for improving your abs was to do endless exercises which used these muscles in isolation – sit ups, crunches and twists in numbers higher than most people have the attention span to count.

We now know different and unfortunately it’s not as clear cut as that.

BUT the good news is that you don’t have to do 1000 sit ups a day to see results either!

Consider that many every day ‘movements’ you do require you engaging your abs (or at least you should be engaging them to avoid over using other muscles and to prevent injuries): bending down to pick things up, carrying your shopping in from the car,  even rolling over to get out of bed!

With that in mind you can see that doing a variety of compound (multi-muscle) exercises are a better and more balanced route than endless crunches.

Here’s a 6 minute workout you can do at home with no equipment that uses a good variety of core muscles as well as hitting the all important six-pack Rectus Abdominis.

First warm up and stretch – jog on the spot or do enough jumping jacks to get your heart rate up slightly and until you feel warmer (but not really sweaty).

Spend 3-5 minutes stretching each muscle group, holding for 20 seconds each.

The Workout

 

30 seconds

Bicycles

Lie on your back with your hands behind your ears. Lift your feet off the floor and bend your knees to 90˚.

Move your legs in a cycling motion, reaching the opposite elbow forward to the knee as each knee comes toward your head.

30 seconds

Plank

Lie on your front in a straight line then lift your body so that you are being supported by your toes and your forearms touching the floor.

30 seconds

Forward balance right leg

Stand in a neutral position with arms straight above your head. Bend forward lifting your right leg straight out behind whilst leaning forward, keeping your back straight and arms by your ears. Hold for 30 seconds then return to starting position.

30 seconds

Superman plank

Begin in a plank position resting on your hands, then stretch your right hand forward and lift your left leg off the floor. Hold 15 secs then switch hands and legs.

15 seconds

Rest

30 seconds

Reverse Crunches

Lie on your back with your feet pointing to the ceiling and knees slightly bent. Use your core muscles to lift the lower half of your torso off the ground, raising your legs higher in the process, lower, and repeat.

30 seconds

Walking Plank

Begin in a plank position resting on your forearms. Inch forward by moving one arm and foot forward at a time, all the while keeping your body straight and strong.

30 seconds

Forward balance left leg

Stand in a neutral position with arms straight above your head. Bend forward lifting your left leg straight out behind whilst leaning forward, keeping your back straight and arms by your ears. Hold for 30 seconds then return to starting position.

30 seconds

Back Extension

Lie on your front with arms by your side and nose to the floor. Lift your shoulders and feet off the floor so that you are resting on your torso, hold for as long as possible, lower, then repeat.

15 seconds

Rest

30 seconds

Jackknife Crunches

Lie on your back with your legs straight in front of you and arms reaching behind your head. Raise your feet to the ceiling at the same time as reaching your hands towards your feet, creating a ‘V’ shape. Lower and repeat.

30 seconds

Plank Weight Transfer

Assume a plank position with forearms on the ground. Step up onto one hand then the other, then return one forearm after the other to the ground in a walking rhythm. Repeat for 30 seconds.

30 seconds

Mountain Climbers

Face the floor, your body being supported face down by your hands and feet. ‘Run’ by lifting your knees forward one at a time as fast as you can.

Total Time = 6 minutes

muffin-top workout_2

Finish with a cool down by stretching out your muscles again, paying particular attention to your core muscles – kneel on all fours and alternate rounding your back like a cat with pressing your tummy to the floor and aiming your chest at the sky like a cobra.

These are common stretches used in yoga and are great for stretching out the core muscles.

If you have some equipment available other great core exercises include:

Hanging Leg Raises 

Hang from a pull up bar or playground monkey bars, engage your core, and raise your legs out in front as high as you can whilst keeping them straight, the lower in a controlled manner.

Farmers Walks

Hold something heavy in each hand (dumbbells are ideal) and just walk until the weights feel too heavy to carry, all the while feeling your core muscles working.

Deadlifts

With feet flat beneath a barbell bar while you stand just behind it, squat down, pushing the hips back like you’re sitting on a chair, and grasp the bar with both hands, shoulder width or slightly wider.

Lift bar by extending hips forward, straightening your legs. Pull shoulders back at top. Return weights to floor by bending hips back while allowing knees to bend, keeping back straight and knees pointing same direction as feet.

So there you have it- a six-pack in only six minutes a day combined with a good diet to burn any excess fat and you’ll soon be spending the money you saved on a gym membership on clothes with a new waist measurement!

 

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