The core is your body’s powerhouse, so strong abs are so much more than something to strive for in the summer. Powerful abdominal muscles support your everyday movements, improve your posture, and stabilize your lower back.
These poses may not be suitable for everyone depending on your past injuries. Please listen to your body and back off when it tells you to.
This balance pose incorporates your whole body while strengthening and toning the abs.
The pose: Sit up straight and lift your legs off the floor, balancing on your seat. Extend your feet in the air until your body forms a “V” shape. Your feet should be touching with your toes spread out. Extend your hands forward and spread your fingers. Keep your shoulders back and down. Keep your low belly in and lift your chest up and open. Hold for 5–10 deep breaths.
Easier: Bend your knees to be parallel with the floor. You can also keep your hands behind your knees for more support.
Harder: Add some movement. Drop your legs an inch or two then lift them back up on the exhale.
Cat Pose Crunches
The crunch in this pose engages the hard-to-reach lower belly.
The pose: Come to tabletop on your hands and knees, with your hands under your shoulders and knees under your hips. Tuck your toes to help you stabilize. Lift your low belly up and tuck in your pelvis so your core is engaged and your back is long. Reach your left arm forward at shoulder height, turn your palm to the right wall. Extend your right heel to the back wall at hip level and flex your foot. On your exhale, hug your left elbow and right knee in to touch. Round your back, lifting your low belly up. With your inhale, extend your left arm forward and right leg back. Exhale, hug into the crunch. Keep going one breath per movement for 5 rounds. Return to all fours. Repeat on the other side.
Easier: If you’re having trouble with your balance, you can keep both hands on the floor and just do the movement with your leg.
Harder: Lift your knee off the ground and do the Downward Dog Variation above.
This pose is a full-body pose that trains all the muscles to work as one unit.
The pose: Lunge forward with your right leg and bend your front knee about 90 degrees, keeping your back leg straight. Sink your hips as low as feels comfortable. Hug your inner thighs in toward one another and square both hips to the front of the mat. Raise your torso tall and extend your arms and chest high. Hold for 5–10 deep breaths. Repeat on other side.
Easier: Do the low lunge version instead by bringing your back knee to the mat and un-tucking your back toes.
Harder: For a deeper stretch in the quadriceps, bring your back knee to the mat and un-tuck your back toes. Bend your back knee and draw your toes up to the sky. Reach back with the same-side hand, clasping the top of your foot, and draw your heel in toward your buttocks. Keep your torso long and tall.
Downward Dog Variation
This version of downward dog keeps your abs firing both during the hold and during the transition.
The pose: Begin in downward facing dog. Extend your left leg up to the sky and point your toes. Shift your weight forward and begin to lower your hips into a plank pose but instead of putting your left toes down, bend your left knee into your chest, lifting your abs into your spine during the entire movement. Press your hips back up and extend your left leg behind you as you return to downward facing dog. Repeat 10 times with the left leg, 10 with the right.
Easier: If this is too challenging, practice the transition from downward dog to plank pose until you feel ready to add the leg movement.
Harder: As you have your knee pulled into your chest, pull the knee up higher into your chest, then lower an inch or two. Repeat 3 times then push back to downward dog with your foot extended.
This pose ignites the core while strengthening the upper and lower body at the same time.
The pose: Stack your shoulders over your wrists and extend your heels to the back of your mat. Firm up your leg muscles. Extend the crown of your head forward and reach your heels back. Tuck your pelvis to lengthen your tailbone toward your heels and lift your low belly up and in. Hold for 10 breaths.
Easier: Lower your knees to the floor, keeping the head and spine in a straight line.
Harder: Lift one leg a couple inches off the floor. Hold for 5 breaths then repeat with the other foot.
Stacked Side Plank
This pose uses your own body weight as resistance while you balance on one arm and leg.
The pose: Begin in plank pose. Place your right hand directly underneath your face. Pivot onto your right hand and stack your left foot on top of the right. Lift your hips so your body forms a straight line. Raise your left hand to the sky. Hold for up to 60 seconds then slowly return to plank. Repeat on the other side.
Easier: Place your left foot on the floor in front of you for stabilization.
Harder: Lift your left leg into the air, keeping it straight and active.
Warrior Lunge Twist
The twist in this pose works your obliques while the balance works your abs.
The pose: Lunge forward with your left leg and bend your front knee about 90 degrees, keeping your back leg straight. With a long torso, bring your hands to prayer. Tighten your core and rotate your upper body to the left. Hook your right elbow over the outside of your left leg. Turn your head to look up toward the sky. Hold for 10 long, deep breaths then return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Easier: If you have trouble maintaining your balance, focus your eyes straight ahead instead of looking up to the sky.
Harder: Place your right hand on the floor on the outside of your left foot and lift your left arm to the sky.
This challenging balance pose keeps your core engaged the entire time.
The pose: Shift your weight onto your right foot. Hug your left knee into your chest then extend it straight back behind you so it’s parallel to the ground. Flex your left foot so your toes are pointed down. Keep your hands together at your heart in prayer position. Hold for 3 long, deep breaths then slowly return to standing. Repeat on the other side.
Easier: Bend your bottom knee to maintain your balance, and work up to fully extending your supporting leg. You can also bring your fingertips to the ground to stabilize yourself.
Harder: Reach your arms out in front of you so your body is in a straight line from your fingertips all the way down your back and out through your left heel.
Looking for a post-workout meal? Try this Blueberry Protein Smoothie!