We all know abs are made in the kitchen — but they’re also perfected at the gym. Nutrition and fitness are the dynamic duo you’ll need to rock a midriff-baring tank or that itsy-bitsy bikini with confidence this summer. But there’s more to having a strong core than just for vanity’s sake.
“The core determines your posture, power, alignment, balance, control and circulation so that function is optimal,” says personal trainer Jessica Schatz, widely recognized as The Core Expert™, who uses her own unique methodology rooted in Pilates and the tools gained from her professional dance career to help clients like fashion mogul Ashley Olsen, NBA star Wesley Matthews of the Dallas Mavericks and members of Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. “If you think of your core muscles as a sturdy central link in a chain connecting your upper and lower body, you will understand that your arms and legs will function best if core muscles are strong and flexible. Physical motion ripples upward and downward to adjoining links of the chain. When you hit a tennis ball, mop the floor, pull open a file cabinet or make any other movement, the necessary motions either originate in your core or move through it.”
Her tips for sexy summer abs include the following:
Drinking sufficient water boosts your metabolism, cleanses your body of waste and acts as an appetite suppressant — all of which promote weight loss. It also regulates your body temperature and lubricates your joints. In this way, your body performs at its optimal level so you can exercise better, smarter and longer. Plus, you’ll digest food more efficiently, eliminating pain, cramping, dizziness and other dehydration symptoms.
Pro tip: Drink a full glass of water first thing in the morning. Have aluminum or glass bottles to rinse and refill every day so they are ready to go. Keep one in your car, your purse and your gym bag, and refill whenever possible. Always have a full glass of water right before every meal. You’ll eat less, you’ll feel more satiated from what you do eat and your food will metabolize better.
When it comes to exercise for abdominals, focus on full-body weight movements (think any plank variation) rather than doing thousands of crunches. These are more efficient, burn more fat and calories, and help you stabilize all parts of your body, joints and especially spine to function better through your workouts. That is why functional fitness such as Pilates is great — it is full-body movement starting at the core. So skip the singularly focused arm or shoulder day and instead do squats or lunges while shoulder raising or overhead pressing.
HIIT it and quit it (all that cardio).
Rather than an hour of straight cardio, do high-intensity interval training — a technique in which you exert maximum effort through quick, intense bursts of exercise followed by short recovery periods. This type of training gets and keeps your heart rate up and burns more fat and calories in less time — more effectively than after a lower impact steady-state exercise such as the elliptical machine or jogging. Ultimately, you work harder, not longer, which is a great timesaver.
Always remember your core.
Besides doing regular core and abdominal exercises (which may currently be part of your workout routine), pull your navel to your spine at all times — even when you’re not exercising. Do it when you’re brushing your teeth, when you’re driving your car, in line at the store — anytime.
Pro tip: Don’t forget to breathe along the way. Every time you finish an exhale, imagine someone pulling a corset tight around your midsection. This will work the abdominal wall while creating “muscle memory.” It also helps keep your spine and posture stable.
The Ultimate Ab Workout
To feel long and lean in no time, do the following moves twice through (or three times if you’re feeling frisky), four to five times per week, along with 15 to 20 minutes of high-intensity cardio. These exercises are designed to target your full body, resulting in a toned butt and thighs, sleeker arms and swimsuit-worthy abs.