Abs can be made in the kitchen—and your living room, with these exercises.

By Amy Schlinger
December 26, 2019

Real talk: The fitness goal of a "flat stomach" isn't necessarily...attainable for everyone. In fact, many factors play into just how "flat" your stomach looks on any given day: where you are in your menstrual cycle, how well your digestive system's working, and even whether or not your parents bestowed upon you some ab-worthy genes—you know, stuff you totally can't control.

Another factor? Your diet (yes, there is some truth to the saying that you "make abs in the kitchen.") "Core training is more than crunches and planks—what you eat can affect how your gut feels,” Leslie Bonci, MPH, RD, nutrition consultant for the Kansas City Chiefs and founder of Active Eating Advice, tells Health. “For instance, too much food at one time can make you feel bloated, or a diet too low in fiber can cause one's bowels to feel sluggish and therefore the stomach and abs will appear puffy.”

You can remedy some of those issues by eating produce at every meal and filling up on veggies, whole grains, and beans, says Bonci—but even that won’t automatically make your stomach flat.

RELATED: The 31 Best Stomach Exercises for Stronger Abs

Neither will endless crunches and sit-ups, tbh—but that doesn't mean you should skip the core work. Instead, try to focus on a new goal: Strengthen your core and aim to make it as stable as possible—so stable that when someone tries to push you over in a plank position, you can still hold steady.

That's because core stability forms the basis of all movements and it’s the key to getting stronger all over, too. “Every time we move our body, we are either stabilizing or moving through our core,” explains Meghan Hayden, NCSF-CPT, trainer at Performix House in New York City. “The stronger our core is, the better foundation we have for doing any movement, especially when involving added weight or resistance. The greater the load, the greater your stability demands.” In other words, the stronger your midsection, the heavier you can lift, the faster you can run, and the taller you can sit.

To build that strong, stable midsection, try these three ab circuits, curated by Hayden. You can use any of the three as a warm up or cool down, or perform all three in a row for a major ab burner. You just may score the added bonus of a stomach that feels flatter after a few weeks, too.

RELATED: 5 Reasons Your Abs Aren't Showing Yet

Circuit 1

Perform exercises 1-3 for 1 minute, rest for 20 seconds, then move onto the next move. Repeat the entire circuit 2 times.

1. Single Leg Plank

1. Start in a high plank position, arms extended, wrists stacked directly under shoulders. Form a straight line from shoulders to heels, pelvis tucked slightly under and feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Slowly lift one leg off the ground. Hold for 30 seconds.

3. Switch legs and hold for 30 seconds.

2. Plank Rotations

1. Start in a high plank position, wrists stacked directly under shoulders. Form a straight line from shoulders to heels, pelvis tucked slightly under and feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Brace core as you slowly lift right hand and rotate body towards the right, reaching right hand up toward ceiling. Hips should stack and feet should pivot.

3. Return to high plank. Repeat on the other side. Continue alternating for 1 minute.

3. Plank to Bird Dog

1. Start in a forearm plank position, elbows stacked directly under shoulders. Form a straight line from shoulders to heels, pelvis tucked slightly under, and feet shoulder-width apart.

2. Slowly lift and extend right arm forward while simultaneously lifting and extending left leg backwards, using core to stay balanced. Pause for a few seconds, then lower arm and leg.

3. Lift left arm and right leg. Pause for a few seconds, then lower arm and leg. Continue alternating for 1 minute.

RELATED: 7 No-Crunch Exercises for Six-Pack Abs

Circuit 2

Perform exercises 4-6 for 45 sec, rest for 45 seconds, then move onto the next move. Repeat the entire circuit 3 times.

4. Dumbbell Goblet Squat

1. Stand with feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes pointed slightly out. Hold one dumbbell at chest level with both hands.

2. Keeping back straight, send hips back and down to perform a squat until glutes are just below knee level, or as low as you can go. Hold for 5 seconds.

3. Push through feet to stand. Repeat for 45 seconds.

5. Dumbbell Overhead Walk

1. Stand with feet hip-width apart. Hold a dumbbell in one hand.

2. Slowly press dumbbell overhead, palm facing midline. Keep arm straight, shoulder away from ear and bicep by ear.

3. With dumbbell overhead, brace core as you walk the length of a room.

4. When you get to the end, slowly turn around and walk back to starting point.

5. Switch arms and repeat. Continue alternating for 45 seconds.

6. Hollow Body Hold

1. Lie flat on back, arms extended straight out, wrists over shoulders, and legs in a table-top position, knees over hips with knees bent 90 degrees and feet raised.

2. Bracing core, lift head, neck, and shoulders of the ground, and extend arms and legs straight out, extending from fingertips through toes. Hold for 45 seconds.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Torch Your Core in Every Workout

Circuit 3

Perform exercises 7-10 for 20 seconds, rest for 10 seconds, and move onto the next move. Repeat the entire circuit 3 times.

7. Pike Ups

1. Start in a high plank position, wrists stacked directly under shoulders. Form a straight line from shoulders to heels, pelvis tucked slightly under and feet shoulder-width apart. Place both feet on top of a towel on a slick surface.

2. Using core, legs and glutes, lift hips up towards ceiling, bringing feet toward hands. Keep legs as straight as possible.

3. Slowly lower back down to plank position. Repeat for 20 seconds.

8. Beast Walk

1. Start on all fours, wrists stacked under shoulders, knees stacked under hips. Pushing through hands and feet, lift knees about two inches off the ground.

2. Slowly step right hand forward, while simultaneously stepping left foot forward.

3. Slowly step left hand and right foot forward. Keep knees low, back flat, and core engaged.

4. Continue alternating steps and moving forward for 20 seconds.

9. Supine Leg Lowers

1. Lie flat on your back. Place hands down by sides and lift legs straight up toward ceiling.

2. Keep core and glutes tight as you slowly lower legs toward floor, stopping about 6 inches from ground.

3. Lift legs back up toward ceiling. If you feel discomfort or pain in your lower back, keep legs higher off the floor or bend knees. Repeat for 20 seconds.

10. Side Plank

1. Lie on your side, right forearm on the ground, with elbow stacked directly under shoulder. You should form a straight line from shoulders to heel, with hips stacks.

2. Press right forearm into the ground and lift hips toward ceiling. Extend left arm toward ceiling. Hold for 20 seconds, then switch sides.

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