Power up your middle with this abs-centric workout—zero crunches required! 

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Skip sit-ups. Say goodbye to bicycles. To torch the core, all you need to do is lift weights and breathe deep. "All major lifts are a core exercise," says Joanna Castro (shown here), NASM-CPT, coach at Body Space Fitness in New York City. That's because they all incorporate a "vertical plank" (like a regular plank, but standing up), which is maintained throughout each move. 

To practice a vertical plank, start by standing tall, driving your feet into the ground with soft knees. Tuck your butt under slightly by pulling your belly button toward your spine and squeezing the glutes. Also, make two fists down by your sides. Take big inhales through the nose and exhales through the mouth in this position, engaging the entire body, especially those abs. "When we create tension in our entire bodies, we create stability," Castro explains. "If we're not stable, we're not as efficient through the work." Here's a sneak peek at a few of the moves in our workout online—they'll make you strong to the core.

Farmer's March

Farmer’s March
Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start standing with feet hip-width apart, kettlebell or dumbbell in left hand, held slightly away from the body. Hold the right hand in a fist either at your shoulder, out to the side, or down by your side (whatever is most comfortable for you) to create tension on that side. Engage the abs and maintain a tall posture, shoulders over hips over ankles (think about your vertical plank). Then, drive left knee in toward the chest, squeezing the right butt cheek. Step the left foot back down and repeat with the right knee. Continue alternating for 30 to 45 seconds. Then switch the weight to your right hand and repeat.

Goblet High Hold

Goblet-High-Hold-HARD CORE STRENGTH Health Mag October 2021-210615_HealthMag_15_013
Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start standing with feet hip-width apart, knees soft. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands and raise elbows up in front of you, in line with shoulders and parallel to ground. Keep shoulders down away from ears. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds, breathing deep. Think about the vertical plank as you hold, making sure core is engaged the entire time.

Goblet Squat

goblet squat
Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start standing with feet slightly wider than hip-width apart. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell with both hands at chest height, elbows bent and in line with shoulders. Pull shoulders down away from the ears. Inhale as you lower the hips down and back into a squat, like you're reaching for a seat. Avoid buckling knees inward. Then, exhale and drive the ground away to stand back up with abs engaged and back flat. Repeat for 30 to 45 seconds. 

Archer Row

HARD CORE STRENGTH Health Mag October 2021
Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start standing with left leg back, holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in left hand. Hinge forward at the waist, resting right forearm on right thigh and letting left arm hang straight down. Engage the abs and keep your back flat. Then, row left elbow back, bringing weight up to your rib cage. Straighten arm back down. Keep shoulders down away from ears the entire time. Repeat for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch sides. 

Single-Arm Suitcase Deadlift

Start standing, feet hip-width apart, holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in right hand, down by side (don't let the weight touch your body). Create tension in the other arm, either holding it out to the side at shoulder height or straight down in front of you. Inhale as you hinge forward at the hips with knees bent, sending the hips straight back and chest parallel to the ground. Come back to standing. Repeat for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch sides.

Strict Press

Strict-Press-HARD CORE STRENGTH Health Mag October 2021-210615_HealthMag_17_006
Credit: ANTHONY CUNANAN

Start standing, feet hip-width apart. Hold a kettlebell or dumbbell in the right hand, at shoulder height. Make a fist with left hand and extend it out to the side. Exhale to press the weight overhead, keeping heels under your hips, feet planted, and abs engaged. Then, lower the weight back to shoulder height, keeping your elbow in front of you. Repeat for 30 to 45 seconds, then switch sides.

Ipsilateral Dead Bug (Alternating)

Lie on your back, both knees bent with feet lifted and flexed, knees over hips and shins parallel to the ground. Extend arms straight up, wrists over shoulders. Engage your abs to make sure there's no space between your lower back and the ground. Inhale to extend right arm behind you and right leg toward the floor. Keep left knee bent over hip and left arm straight up. Exhale to return to the starting position. Then repeat on the other side and continue alternating for 30 to 45 seconds.

Hollow Body Hold

Lie on your back. Engage the abs to lift head, shoulders, arms, and legs off of the ground, keeping arms down by your sides and legs straight out, feet flexed. Hold for 30 to 45 seconds. Bend the knees if necessary to help keep your back flat to floor.

This article originally appeared in the October 2021 issue of Health Magazine. Click here to subscribe today!

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