Strengthen and sculpt your core in just 30 days with this abs challenge

Chelsey Wilkens
·10-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From Harper's BAZAAR

If you're looking for a way to build strength and tone your body in a set amount of time, an abs challenge is a good place to start. Building a strong midsection will help you get more out of every exercise you do, because your core is the source of your stability and power. What's more, toning your back and abdominal muscles (they're both part of your core) will help prevent lower back pain and improve your posture.

I've designed this 30-day abs challenge to ensure you never get bored while sculpting and strengthening your core.

The moves are all bodyweight abs exercises ideal for every level—you just need a yoga mat. You'll be exercising your abs six days per week, and devoting the seventh day to a mindfulness practice.

Mindfulness can be as simple as focusing on your breathing, listening to a guided meditation, or, my personal go-to: alternate nostril breathing. Start with five minutes, and add one minute each week. By the end of the month, you’ll be doing 10 minutes each Saturday.

If you're concerned about over-working your abs by focusing on them every day, don't worry: your abs recover faster than other muscle groups do. They are built of predominantly fast-twitch muscle fibres, meaning they both tire and recover quickly.

How to do the 30-Day abs challenge

Each day of the week has a unique focus to ensure you hit your abs from every angle. You'll work the transverse abdominis, which is the muscle that holds in your internal organs. You'll challenge your rectus abdominis, which are the external abs muscles that you can see. Plus, you'll tone your internal and external obliques, which run in an X shape, wrapping around your waist. Waking up the hip flexors is also important since they help you hinge at the hips.

For the best results from this challenge, do the exercise of the day in addition to two to three days a week of total-body strength-training (it can be bodyweight) and two to three days a week of light cardio, like a 15- to 20-minute power walk.

At the start of the challenge, count how many reps you can do of each move in 40 seconds. Keep that number handy and repeat this test at the end of the challenge to see how much stronger you've become.

Photo credit: Jewelyn Butron
Photo credit: Jewelyn Butron

Your 30-day abs challenge moves:

For each exercise, you'll work for 30 seconds (per side, if applicable), then take a 30-second rest. Continue for five rounds, or five to 7.5 minutes total.

Download the 30-Day Abs Challenge PDF


Kneeling Push-up

How to: Begin in a knee plank with your tailbone tucked under, index fingers pointing straight forwards and fingers spread wide, feet together and toes tucked, resting on mat. Lower down, starting with your shoulders shrugging away from the ears, elbows slightly in towards the ribs. Press up quickly. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.


Thigh-Supported Rockies

How to: Start balancing on tailbone with left leg straight and lifted to hover off mat, right leg bent, holding right hamstring just above knee with right hand, and left arm lifted so bicep is in line with ear. With control, roll back until shoulder blades touch the mat and hips lift off the floor. Roll forward to return to starting position. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Plank Knee Cross Pulls

How to: Start in a plank position. Pull right knee under body and across to tap left elbow. Return to plank, and then pull left knee under body and across to touch right elbow. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Static Deadbug

How to: Start lying on back with arms at sides, legs bent, and feet flat on mat. Lift arms toward ceiling at shoulder height. Lift knees into air until legs form 90-degree angles. Flex feet. Engage core and hold for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Side V-Up

How to: Start lying on right side, right arm out on the floor at a slight angle in front of body, left hand behind head, and left leg stacked on top of right. At the same time, lift legs and torso up and toward one another, trying to touch left elbow to left leg, leaning onto right forearm for support. Return to start. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then immediately switch to opposite side. Rest 30 seconds. Continue for 7.5 minutes total.


Cat Cow

How to: Begin on all fours. Inhale to drop stomach toward the mat and arch back, looking up toward the ceiling. Hold for five seconds, then round back, drawing navel toward spine and tucking tailbone under. Hold for five seconds. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Plank Hold Opposite Knee Drop

How to: Start in a plank. While keeping hips level, slowly lower one knee down to touch the mat. Reverse the motion, then do the same thing with the other knee. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Supine Hip Lift

How to: Lie on your back, arms by sides. Keeping shoulder blades pressing into the floor, lift hips off of the ground. Squeeze glutes at the top and then return to start. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Bear Plank Shoulder Taps

How to: Start on all fours with toes tucked. Push into hands and lift knees to hover off mat. Keep hips level as you lift right hand to tap left shoulder. Return right hand to mat and then lift left hand to tap right shoulder. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Cross Press Dead Bugs

How to: Start lying on back, left arm lifted toward ceiling at shoulder height, right leg lifted toward ceiling at hip height (foot flexed), left leg bent at 90 degrees, and right hand pushing into top of left knee. At the same time, slowly lower left arm backward until biceps is by ear as you lower right leg forward to hover above mat. Return to start. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then immediately switch to opposite side. Rest 30 seconds. Continue for 7.5 minutes total.


Forearm Side Plank Hold

How to: Start lying on right side with upper body propped up on right forearm, elbow under shoulder, left hand on left hip, and legs extended with left leg crossed in front of right, feet flexed and resting on mat. Lift hips off of mat as high as possible. Hold for 30 seconds, then immediately switch to opposite side. Rest 30 seconds. Continue for 7.5 minutes total.

Quadruped Bird Dog

How to: Begin on all fours. At the same time, extend right arm forward to shoulder height and left leg back to hip height, keeping limbs straight. Then, round back and draw right elbow toward left knee to touch. Reach right arm and left leg back out. Return to start and repeat on the the other side. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Kneeling Push-up To Bird Dog

How to: Begin in a knee plank, tail bone tucked under, index fingers pointing straight forward, and fingers spread wide. Lower down, pulling shoulders away from ears, elbows slightly in toward ribs. Press up quickly, this time lifting knees off the ground as you do and reaching left arm forward to shoulder height and right leg back to hip height. Lower back to knee plank. Repeat on opposite site. Continue for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Quadruped Shoulder Rolls

How to: Start on all fours. Draw a big circle with shoulders by squeezing them up toward ears, then rolling them down back. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then switch directions for 30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds. Continue for 7.5 minutes total.

Plank Alternating Toe Touch

How to: Start in a plank position. While keeping hips as level as possible, pick right foot off the ground and bend right knee under stomach toward chest, as you lift left hand off mat to tap right toes with left fingers. Return to plank position. Repeat on opposite side. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.


Inchworm

How to: Start standing at back of mat. Fold forward, bending knees, until palms reach floor. Slowly walk hands forward pulling body into plank position. Keeping hips steady and legs straight, slowly walk hands back to start and stand. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Plank to Alternating Side Plank

How to: Start in a plank position. Lift right arm toward ceiling at shoulder height as you rotate body to open up to right side of mat. Body should form "T" shape. Return to plank position. Lift left arm toward ceiling at shoulder height as you rotate body to face left side of mat. Return to plank position. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Bear Crawl Hold

How to: Begin on all fours with toes tucked. Lift your knees to hover off the mat and take one step forward with each foot. Engage abs by drawing navel toward spine, push hands into mat and hold for five seconds, then, without dropping knees, take one step back with each foot. Lower knees down to mat. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Stretch Jump To Plank

How to: Start standing in the middle of your mat with feet together and hands at sides. Swing hands overhead and take a tiny hop straight up off the mat. Land and immediately bend knees, folding forward to place hands on floor. Jump legs back to land in plank position. Quickly hop feet forward again to meet hands. Stand and swing arms back overhead to take another tiny hop straight up off mat. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Plank Jacks

How to: Start in a plank, feet together. Hop feet hips-width distance apart, and then hop them back in together, keeping hips level. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Two-Step Plank Walk

How to: Start in a plank position. Move left foot 12 inches to the left as you move right hand to meet left under chest. Then, move left hand 12 inches to the left as you bring right foot to meet left. Repeat a second time from the top, and then reverse the movements to return to start position. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.

Side Plank Elbow Twist

How to: Start in a side plank with feet flexed, left foot stacked on top of right, upper body propped on right forearm, elbow underneath shoulder, and left hand behind head. Rotate at waist to bring left elbow down to touch mat. Keep hips high and lower body stable. Return to start. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then immediately switch sides. Rest for 40 seconds. Continue for 7.5 minutes total.

Scap Push-up

How to: Start on all fours. Spread shoulder blades wide across back like you're trying to imprint a bra line on the ceiling, and then squeeze shoulder blades together as you lower chest toward mat without bending your arms. That's one rep. Repeat for 30 seconds, then rest for 30. Continue for 5 minutes total.


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