Exercising your core is really important: Strong abdominal and back muscles are essential for doing everyday tasks, like lifting a 20-pound toddler and putting away groceries, not to mention preventing an achy back and maintaining good posture at your desk. Break out of (boring) crunch mode and work your middle with this Pilates-inspired routine. Complete the workout three to four times a week to make the most of your midsection.
Move 1: Knee Fold Tuck
(A) Sit tall, hands on floor, knees bent, squeezing a playground ball between them. (B) Lift knees so shins are about parallel to the floor; extend arms. Pull knees toward shoulders, keeping upper body still. Bring knees back to starting position. Repeat 15 to 20 times.
Move 2: Climbing Rope
(A) Sit with legs extended, feet turned out in a V position, toes pointed. Contract core muscles and roll spine into a C-curve. (B) Lift arms and move them as if you were climbing a rope. Twist slightly with each reach. Do 20 reaches with each arm.
Move 3: Side Balance Crunch
(A) Begin with left knee and left hand on the floor, right arm straight up. Extend right leg so your body forms a straight line. (B) Pull right knee toward torso and right elbow toward knee. Straighten arm and leg. Repeat 10 times, then switch sides.
Move 4: Circle Plank
Start in a plank position with abs tight. (A) Pull right knee in and circle it clockwise, then (B) counterclockwise. Keep the rest of your body stationary. Repeat five times, then switch legs.
Move 5: Sliding Pike
(A) Begin in a plank on an uncarpeted floor, hands under shoulders and a towel under feet. (B) With legs straight, raise hips and draw legs toward hands into a pike position—your feet should slide easily. Hold for one count, then return to start. Repeat 10 times.
Move 6: Oblique Reach
Sit with knees bent and feet on floor. (A) Straighten right leg. Roll spine into a C-curve. Place left hand behind head and extend right arm. (B) Twist body to the left, roll back a bit more (and hold for one count), then come up. Do five reps, then switch sides.