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When people think about core exercises, they usually imagine exercises that begin in the supine position, or lying on your back. There are some very effective core moves that begin in this position, but they aren’t the only ones that can help you get the abs you want.
Bust out of your exercise funk and challenge your abdominal muscles—all of them—by breaking out these hanging and standing variations of the traditional “core” routine.
Why You Should Work Your Abs Right Side Up
Why switch it up? By standing or hanging, you have to actively stabilize your body in new ways. Different diagonals of movement and points of stability create a new challenge for your body. By hanging or standing in space, your body is in contact with less surface area than if you were lying on the floor, ensuring the need for increased stability coming from your own body.
To be clear, your “core” isn’t one muscle—it’s a group of muscles that are responsible for stabilizing the center of your body. A strong core means a solid foundation for all other movement, and strong protection from unexpected forces or movements that can cause injury.
The core consists of multiple abdominal muscles including the rectus abdominis, external and internal obliques, transverse abdominis, as well as the diaphragm and pelvic floor muscles. If you’re focusing on your abdominal muscles, you’re going to want to target all of these abdominal muscles for maximum stability. Each abdominal muscle serves a different stabilizing function and is responsible for slightly different movements. The muscle fibers of each of these muscles are aligned at slightly angles and obliquities, creating reinforced patterns of protection.
The rectus abdominis muscle fibers run vertically while the obliques, as their name suggest, have a diagonal inclination. Meanwhile, the transverse abdominis wraps horizontally around you like your very own built in low back brace. By targeting all of the muscles you can create layers of criss-crossing fibers that work together to provide optimal stability and mobility.
How to Work Your Whole Core Standing Up
Colleen Conlon, personal trainer and group fitness instructor at Equinox and the DailyBurn app, offers these six hanging or standing core exercises that are sure to target all the abdominal muscles and make your core work extra hard. Some of these exercises use a ViPR, which is a useful piece of equipment for swings and other trunk rotational movements. If your gym doesn’t have one handy, just sub in a kettlebell or medicine ball when necessary.
Add any of these exercises to your current ab routine to mix it up, or perform each of the six moves consecutively for eight reps each to complete one big circuit.
ViPR Chop with Halo
Begin in the standing position with a slight bend in the hips and knees. Hold the ViPR (or, alternatively, a kettlebell or medicine ball) in front of you. As you stand, lift the resistance by driving the weight diagonally across your body, around the back of your head and then over to the opposite side from where you began. Repeat in the opposite direction. This circular movement pattern with diagonal lines helps target the obliques while requiring you to stabilize and find your center.
Resisted Side Bend
Start in the standing position with feet wider than hip distance apart and slightly turned out (externally rotated). Begin by extending the arms with the load directly up overhead. Draw your abdominal muscles in to stabilize the spine prior to movement and prevent arching in the lower back. Then, with control, begin to shift the hips to the right while the rest of your body and the load (ViPR/kettlebell/medicine ball) goes to the opposite side. Alternate by shifting to load side to side. Repeat with smooth control. Be sure not to move the load too far away from your body—you should maintain control of all movement.
Begin standing, holding the load at chest height with the elbows in line with your shoulders. Step the right foot to the side to perform a lateral lunge. While performing right lateral lunge, shift the load to the left while fighting to keep the hips, core, chest, and arms parallel to the ground. Repeat on opposite side.
Begin by hanging from a bar with legs extended towards the ground. While keeping your legs together, use your core to drive the legs in a circle clockwise and then counterclockwise up and around your body like a windshield wiper. Alternate directions with every repetition for an increased challenge.
Hanging L Sit
Begin in the hanging position. From there, isolate your core muscle by lifting both legs together until you form an “L” shape bending at the hips. Hold this position for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds. Release, then repeat. Make sure you maintain legs at the same height throughout the hold. Do not let feet drop.
Alternating Transverse Knee Tucks
Begin in the hanging position with legs together. Drive both knees up and to the right side of your body bending the knees as you lift as if you’re doing a side crunch. Return to the center before repeating this movement on the opposite side. Repeat side to side.
Dr Rachel Tavel, PT, DPT, CSCS is a Doctor of Physical Therapy, Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist, health and fitness writer, and runner who works as a PT at Shift Wellness in New York City.