With spring and summer on the way, it’s natural to have strong abs and a flat belly on our minds. Many fitness experts recommend doing ab exercises every day if you want to get a lean and sculpted look. But why do ab exercises everyday when the same experts recommend taking “off days” for other workouts?
Fitness guru Holly Perkins, author of the book Lift to Get Lean, must have asked that same question. She came up with an amazing ab workout that you only have to do once a week! Even if the workout is infrequent, it’s made up of some serious exercises. Best of all, the results can be striking.
There are four exercises to her workout, which can all be done at home or at the gym. You’ll just need a few pieces of equipment: a Swiss ball, a sturdy exercise bench, a 5-pound dumbell, and a 5-10 pound weight plate. There’s a specific pattern of repetitions for each exercise, and Perkins recommends doing them in order for maximum effect.
Swiss Ball Body Saw
Start out on your knees, and hold the ball with your forearms. You can lace your fingers together to help hold it in place. You’ll want to get into a plank position, with your feet slightly apart. Now the fun begins! Engaging your core and squeezing your legs, lift away from the ball.
Pull your arms 2-4 inches towards your torso, then move them 4-8 inches forward. You can think of it as “sawing” your arms back and forth on the ball— hence the name of the exercise. One back-and-forth movement is a rep. Do 20 of those at first, then rest for 30 seconds. Do 30 reps, then rest for a minute before doing a final set of 40 reps. And we’re just getting started!
Swiss Plank with Feet on Bench
Don’t put the ball away just yet, and you’ll also need a sturdy workout bench for this one. Start out on your knees again, with your feet slightly in front of the bench. Place your forearms on the ball and push up to lift your upper body. Carefully reach one foot back to top of the bench, then the other — you’ll want them to be shoulder-width apart.
Now that you’re in the plank position, try to “lengthen” your body, engaging your core the whole time. Hold the stretched-out position for 30 seconds, then relax your body for 30 more. Repeat for 45 seconds and then 45 seconds of rest, then finally do a third rep, holding the position for 1 minute before resting again.
Lie on your back, facing up, and stick your arms straight up into the air. Keep your legs straight. Exhale, engaging your core as you do. In one swift motion, lift your legs up like you’re trying to get them to touch your hands. Relax your legs all the way to the ground, and repeat for 15 reps. Rest, then do 2 more sets of 15 reps.
As you can tell, this exercise is a bit of a killer! But if you want an extra challenge, you can try holding a 5 pound dumbbell in each hand the hold time. If you can push yourself through this one, you’ll understand why it’s so effective at sculpting your abs, even if you just do it once a week.
Weighted Russian Twist
For this one, you get to sit up with your knees bent and your feet flat. Hold the 5-10 pound weight plate in your extended hands. Inhale, then exhale while leaning back to a 45 degree angle. Turn to the right, pause, and squeeze your abs. Turn to the left and do the same thing — that makes one rep. For this exercise, do 20 reps, then rest 30 seconds. Follow up with 30 reps, then rest a minute before doing a final set of 40.
And that’s the week’s ab workout!
If you’re looking for some variety, the fellas over at Iron Man Magazine also suggest a once-a-week ab workout. Theirs consists of inline knee-ups (4 sets of 10 reps) followed by ab bench crunches or full-range bench crunches (3 sets of 12 reps). The advantage of their routine is that it is made up of exercises with maximum flexion to make sure you’re totally engaging your abs.
You could also check out Holly Perkins’ other fitness recommendations. She’s got some great exercises, like the standing overhead press, leg swaps, and elbow planks — you could use these for some variety, or work them into other routines. She’s also got some good reminders on how to get the best abs you can, like cutting carbs!
Achieving the ab look you want can take some real effort and dedication, but Perkin’s once-a-week routine might make it just a little easier! Do you have any other ab secrets? Success stories to share?