The 5-Minute Ultimate Core Workout
Who can resist a toning two-for-one deal? That's why we love this strengthening and shaping workout from instructor Maryanne Blake at the Sports Club/LA—Boston, based on her hot ZenCore class. Each move challenges your core—those crucial ab and back muscles you call on every time you turn, bend, lift, you name it—while sculpting other muscle groups, too.
To shore up your core, plus tighten you up all over, pick an upper-body, lower-body and mid-section move and perform the trio twice, 3 to 4 times a week.
Upper body: Push-up alternating knee tap
Make it easier: Drop knees to floor. Continue for 20 to 30 seconds.
Upper body: Plank jack
Get into "up" part of push-up position with hands directly under shoulders, body straight from head to heels. Engage core and bend elbows (keep them in toward body) to lower body toward floor. Straighten arms; at same time, quickly jump feet forward to outside of hands; jump back to previous position.
Make it easier: Instead of jumping, walk feet forward (and back). Continue for 20 to 30 seconds.
Lower body: Flying bridge
Make it easier: Lower butt to mat before pushing back up to reverse tabletop. Continue for 20 to 30 seconds.
Lower body: Butt kicker
From all fours, lift hips to come into Downward Dog; walk feet forward until feet are under hips, hands under shoulders. Keeping feet flexed, raise right foot and try to touch heel to butt; lower it and repeat with other foot. Pick up pace, alternating feet as quickly as possible for 20 to 30 seconds. Next, bend knees slightly and jump both heels up to try to touch butt; continue for 20 to 30 more seconds.
Make it easier: Alternate feet during second part instead of jumping.
Mid-section: Standing knee tuck
Make it easier: Hold onto chair or counter with one hand. Continue for 20 to 30 seconds; switch sides and repeat.
Mid-section: Rock the boat
Sit with knees bent, feet on floor, hands on backs of thighs. Tighten abs. Begin to roll down onto upper back, letting feet lift; generate enough momentum to rock back up. Come to standing, then jump, twisting body to left in air. Jump again, twisting back to center; lower back down and repeat sequence on opposite side.
Make it easier: Use one hand to push up off floor. Continue for 20 to 30 seconds.