A strong and shredded core can significantly benefit your overall health. A well-trained midsection enhances stability, reduces the risk of injury, and assists in performing everyday tasks more efficiently. Fortunately, obtaining desirable abs doesn’t require hours of intense gym time or fancy equipment. With a structured approach to your training and consistency, you can effectively build and sculpt your abs while at home. This article outlines a potent home ab circuit workout to strengthen and shred your core.
I’ve included a workout that should also prove helpful.
Anatomy of Your Core
Before diving into the workout, it’s crucial to understand that your core is much more than a “six-pack.”
Your core is a complex series of muscles that includes the internal and external obliques, transverse abdominis, and lower-back muscles.
These muscles work in harmony to perform a range of movements and stabilize the spine.
For a well-rounded core workout, it’s essential to include exercises targeting these different muscles.
Weak core muscles mean your vital organs are spilling outward, and your spine is burdened with doing more than its fair share of the work.
The weaker your core, the more likely you’ll throw out your lower back.
Getting Shredded: The “Why” Behind the Ab Circuit
Defined abdominals are considered highly attractive.
Of course, being shredded can also indicate good health because it means your body fat percentage is low enough to see the outline of your ab muscles under your skin.
A lower percentage of body fat is one of the key signals of good health. Not too low, of course. In a perfect scenario, a person in midlife and beyond would probably keep their body fat at around 13% (male) or 24% (female). It depends on genetic variables. Every person is a bit different.
- An anti-inflammatory diet is lower in calories and simple carbs than the standard modern diet, which means you’ll lose subcutaneous fat under the skin.
- And because the diet is anti-inflammatory, you’ll also lose the visceral fat that would otherwise pad in between your organs in an attempt to protect from toxicity.
- Cross-training is the final piece of the puzzle. Because the human body adapts to movement patterns quickly, cross-training is varied enough to keep your metabolism from plateauing and your muscles responding.
The Benefits of Circuit Training and Ab Circuit in Particular
Circuit training is an aspect of cross-training – it’s one of the tools in the cross-trainer’s toolbox. It refers to a series of exercises performed in succession, with minimal rest in between.
This style of training is beneficial for multiple reasons. It’s time-efficient, promotes cardiovascular health, improves muscular endurance, and enhances calorie burn – an essential factor for revealing those chiseled abs hidden beneath a layer of fat.
Additionally, the varied nature of circuit workouts can make them more engaging, decreasing the chances of workout monotony.
Remember, the best exercise program is the one you’ll actually do, and circuit workouts are more fun.
The Home Ab Circuit Workout
For two of the exercises within this home ab circuit workout, you can use a stability ball. However, it isn’t strictly necessary. If you don’t have a ball handy, just do the exercises without it.
The final exercise is optional and more advanced. It uses an ab wheel. If you don’t have an ab wheel, just skip that exercise. It’s extra credit and not necessary for a complete workout.
This workout comprises six exercises:
- Complete each exercise for the prescribed number of repetitions before moving on to the next, with minimal rest in between.
- Once you’ve completed all six exercises, rest for 2 minutes. That’s one circuit.
- Beginners can stop after one circuit. Intermediates can do 2 to 3. Advanced athletes can do 4 circuits in total.
As your fitness improves, you can increase the number of circuits or decrease the rest time to up the intensity.
1. Pass the Ball – 8 Complete Repetitions (Passing the Ball 16 Times)
This exercise targets both upper and lower abdominals as you pass the ball from your hands to your feet, and back again.
When visualizing your lower abdominals, picture an upside-down triangle, starting below your navel and stopping just above your pubic bone. To activate this lower ab plate, imagine pulling it in and flattening it toward the ground with extreme intensity.
For upper abdominals, imagine your ribcage compressing (not flaring) while pulling your navel in tightly.
The safety tip for this particular exercise is always to keep your lower back bolted to the mat. Do not let your lower back arch up off the mat, ever.
A beginner modification for this exercise is to ditch the ball and put your hands under your glutes instead (this will help keep your lower back protected). Keeping your legs straight, raise them until they’re perpendicular to the floor, then slowly lower them back down.
2. Ball Crunch – 12 Reps
It’s simple. You do crunches on the ball. Let your upper back relax down around the ball during the down motion – as you inhale – then lift your torso upward and compress your ribs (and pull your belly button in hard) as you exhale.
The safety tip for this exercise is to keep your pelvis in a stabilized, neutral position and your glutes active. Some people want to let their hips drop as their shoulders drop, but arching the back in this way during a crunch is ill-advised.
3. Plank with Alternating Arm Lifts – 12 Reps on Each Side (24 total)
The plank is a fundamental exercise for core stability. It works the entire core, particularly the rectus abdominis and transverse abdominis.
For beginners, start on your hands and knees, then lower your forearms to the floor, with elbows under your shoulders. Extend your legs, forming a straight line from your head to your feet. Hold this position for a full 60 seconds, keeping your hips aligned with your body.
However, intermediate or advanced athletes can do their plank on their hands instead of their elbows (like a push-up start position). And then add alternating arm lifts. It’s intense!
4. Side Plank – 8 Reps on Each Side (16 total)
On your side, bracing with a bent arm (elbow on the mat), place your top hand behind your head. Now, keeping your legs straight and feet on the floor, lift your hips up off the mat. Then back down again.
As you do this exercise, imagine narrowing your waist as much as you possibly can. In bodybuilding, they call that “vacuum.”
5. Prone Alternating Knee Lift – 20 Reps Each Side (for a total of 40)
This is similar to the “mountain climbers” exercise, except there is a rotation in the lower spine, and one foot always stays off the ground.
Face down (in a push-up position), you lift one knee to your chest, then alternate to the other knee. There is a twist during each rep to engage the obliques.
Tip: Imagine initiating the movement from your side oblique muscle, not your leg or hip flexor.
Tip: To protect the sensitive wrist area, keep your wrists slightly ahead of your shoulders.
6. Donkey Kick – 16 Reps Each Side
As mentioned above, I strongly believe that glute conditioning should be a part of core work. For the donkey, get on your mat on hands and knees, face down.
Lower to the elbows.
Pulls your abs up to the sky tightly and keep them braced throughout the exercise.
Lift one bent leg (with a flexed foot). Contract the muscle fibers of that glute fully and deeply with each leg lift. By the way, if you happen to have ankle weights at home, you can wear them for this exercise.
7. Superman – 12 Reps
Often neglected, the lower back is an integral part of your core. Supermans help strengthen these muscles. Lay prone on the ground, arms extended in front of you. Lift your hands and feet off the ground, contracting your lower back. Hold for a few seconds, then return to the starting position.
8. Ab Roller – 12 Reps
The trick to the ab roller is to do them slowly. Slowly on the way out, and slowly back.
Fold the mat up and place it under your knees for extra cushioning. Holding on the handles of the ab wheel, slowly roll out to a plank position, then return to starting position with bent knees.
Tip: there’s no need to roll the wheel back too closely to your knees, as the abs stop working during those last few inches. So to keep the abs active throughout the exercise, only roll the wheel back to a starting position that should be about a foot from your knees.
Final Tips for Getting a Shredded Core from this Home Ab Circuit
So even though most of us know that core training is essential, it’s still underestimated, in my opinion. We do our ab exercises, sure, but they’re almost an afterthought – some crunches at the end of our workout.
The truth is that a strong core is a fundamental aspect of good health. Essential for strength, stability, and poise – and to prevent accidents and back blow-outs.
One thing I’ve learned from scrolling through social media videos and seeing people have falls, trips, and spills is that too many people lack functional core strength and mobility.
Your spine cannot have too much support! Your body is supposed to negotiate sudden changes in direction or high impact effortlessly. But, you know, modern humans in developed countries have become more sedentary and weaker than they realize.
The core comprises muscles not just in your abdominal region but also in your lower back, hips, pelvis, and glutes.
Core isolation exercises target specific areas and include movements like crunches and leg raises.
Most people forget to perform the functional exercises that mimic real-life movements and engage multiple core muscles SIMULTANEOUSLY, such as squats, deadlifts, planking, animal flow movements, gymnastics, calisthenics, and various yoga poses.
Core strength promotes better posture, supporting an upright position and the spine’s natural curvature.
And, hey, I like toned abdominal muscles and a sculpted, lean appearance just as much as anyone else. But remember, it’s not just about being able to see a shredded six-pack. Whether lifting groceries, bending down to tie your shoes, or reaching for something on a high shelf, a strong core makes all movements more manageable.
Meanwhile, consistency is key when working towards a strong and shredded core with this ab circuit.
Remember that a well-rounded fitness regimen should include more than just core training. Incorporate cardio and strength training for other body parts, and consider implementing a balanced diet to optimize results:
- Firstly, fitness is a lifestyle, not just an hour spent exercising.
- Secondly, abs are built in the kitchen as much as in the gym.
Listen to your body and adjust the intensity and rest periods as necessary.