Your abs act as a central link between your upper and lower body, so finding the best ab workout is essential for better movement. Traditionally, core exercises are thought of as crunches or planks, but dancers know that there are plenty of exercises you can do while simply standing to create a stronger, more toned midsection.
Attempting dancer ab exercises can definitely feel foreign at first. However, with time the movements become not only more natural but automatic. If you’re new to standing abs, think about pulling your belly button back toward your spine and staying constantly conscious of small, isolated movements to get the most out of these exercises. A strong core has the ability to enhance overall balance and even contribute to better posture. Most of all, it will allow you to move more efficiently through your DanceBody workout.
It’s time to leave your ego at the door, and be playful with these standing ab exercises.
Here are a couple of different ways you can start your best ab workout.
Hip Isolations and Hip Circles
A great way to warm up your abs and find your center of gravity, especially in the morning, is to do hip isolations and hip circles. We typically do these hip circles during the warm up in most of our DanceBody classes.
Step 1: Begin by bending your knees, legs apart.
Step 2: While both knees are bent, straighten one knee to raise one hip, then drop, then raise the other side. The goal is to lift one knee, drop it, and repeat. It’s a sure way to achieve Shakira-status!
Step 3: Hip Swings: Still in your bent knee position, swing your hips from side to side, like a pendulum. The key is to seamlessly allow your hips to flow side to side, like a hula dancer.
Step 4: Box it Out: To do this, put your hands on your hips, while your knees are still bent. You are going to hit all four corners of movement. First, tuck and press your pelvis forward, swing your hips to the right, pop your booty to the back, then finish by hitting the left side. Repeat. Front. Side. Back. Side.
Step 5: Circle it Out: After you have moved sharply through these four points, start to smooth out the edges to a circle instead of a box, knees bent. Imagine you’re cleaning out the sides of a bowl.
Pro tip: Tuck your pelvis, plus kegel at the same time, and hold your muscles in while you still breathe. This will activate the deepest regions of your abdominal wall.
Upper Body and Rib Isolation
The best ab workouts begin with the hips, since those are the easiest access and start moving. But there are five main muscles that make up those abs, and we like to target all of them. Next, take that movement up a little and into your ribs for upper body and rib isolations.
Step 1: Straighten your knees completely.
Step 2: Rib Slides: Extend your arms out long, to the sides. Pretend you’re holding onto rope on each side and contract your abs inward, as if you’re doing a crunch on the mat. Without dipping your shoulders, begin to smoothly skate just your ribs side to side. Similar to the pendulum, but with straight legs. The goal is not to move anything other than your ribs. This motion is classically more difficult for people, so don’t feel frustrated if it takes time to get it right. This is an unusual, isometric movement. But it’s also how you become a better dancer.
Step 3: Box it Out: Just like we did with those hips. Hands on your waist, jut your chest forward while pulling your shoulders back, press over the right side, sink your belly way back and arch your back, press over the the left side. Then move front, side, back, side, sharply, until you really feel your muscles start to heat up.
Step 4: Circle it Out: Once the box movements start to become comfortable, smooth out the edges to make it a circular movement instead. Just like before with the ribs, imagine there is a circle around your ribs and you want to hit it all the way around smoothly.
Pro tip: Stand in front of your mirror and practice! I would recommend doing these exercises without a shirt on so you can actively try to see your muscles working. It will also help to build the mind/body connection visually.
Obliques are an important muscle group to target for the best ab workout, because they are responsible for flexion and rotation in your trunk muscles. Anytime you move your body while standing up you are forced to activate these core muscles in order to move. In class, we target obliques by incorporating extra resistance, like D-Weights so you can feel the activation happening.
Step 1: Stand on your left leg with your right arm reaching towards the ceiling, and your right leg prepped.
Step 2: Oblique Pulls: Slowly, raise your right knee upward to meet your right elbow in the middle of your body, connecting them in mid-air. Feel the connection between your right knee and right elbow, bringing them in to carve into your right oblique. Exhale as the knee and elbow meet, inhale as they go away from each other to release the contraction. Do these 30x on each side.
Step 3: Oblique Pulses: Hold your right right knee up at your right elbow and pulse into your oblique. These tiny, quick pulses will really squeeze the juice out of the oblique, and all the supporting muscles while you are standing! 20x pulsing on each side.
Step 1: Once you’ve completed these exercises, extend both arms long and activated overhead, keeping your knees straight.
Step 2: Slowly drop one arm down your side, while the other stays strong overhead, feeling that long stretch in your oblique as you alternate from side to side.
Standing ab exercises are one of the best ab workouts in my opinion because of the multidimensional movement involved that targets every abdominal muscle. With every twist, jump, and booty pop you will engage and isolate each individual part of your abdominals to increase your range of motion and lessen lower back pain. And the best part is that you can do these anywhere, anytime– at work or at home, or both!
Now ready. Set. Sweat.