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The Five Best Abs Exercises Recommended by Elite Athletes

Five top British sporting champions share their most effective core exercises.

The Telegraph

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Five top British sporting champions share their most effective core exercises to strengthen and tone your abs.

Stir the pot

Chosen by Jason Kenny, six-time Olympic track cycling champion

“I have always done a really good core exercise called ‘Stir the pot.’ It is like doing a normal plank exercise while leaning your forearms on a Swiss ball. But when you can hold that position, try making a circular motion with your forearms on the ball, as if you are stirring a pot. It is quite a tough one but it is really good for your core strength as you have to hold your balance while you’re moving around. Start with really small circles and gradually make them bigger as you get better.”

How to do it: Start in a plank position with your forearms resting on a Swiss ball. Keep your back straight and try to avoid your hips dropping to the floor. Now make five clockwise circular motions with your forearms, so the ball rolls around in a small circle. Reverse the motion with 5 anticlockwise rotations.

Dead bugs

Chosen by Kate Richardson-Walsh, Olympic hockey gold medallist

“I would always start a workout session by doing ‘dead bugs.’ It is a really good exercise in itself because it works your core and your side muscles as well. But it also meant I knew my core was switched on and functioning before I started exercising, so I could keep good form while I was training. If your core is weak or not firing, you lose your posture.

"The key to this exercise is to lower your arms and legs really slowly – it helps to keep the tension so it is more effective and it also ensures you stay in control.”

How to do it: Lie flat on your back with your arms pointing up to the ceiling. Now lift your legs up so your knees are bent at 90 degrees. Lower your right arm behind your head and move your left leg out in front of you at the same time, until your arm and leg are just above the floor. Slowly return to the start and repeat with the opposite limbs. Aim for ten reps per side.

Body saws

Chosen by Elinor Barker, Olympic gold medal winning cyclist

“One of the best core exercises I am doing at the moment is ‘the body saw’. It is a variation of the plank but with your feet on mats that glide backwards. It’s a really good exercise to help you progress after you get a bit bored of doing the plank. You can really feel the tension in your abdominal muscles as you slide backwards.”

How to do it: Find a smooth floor surface and adopt a plank position with your feet resting on two small mats, towels, or a foam roller. Keeping your back straight, push your body gently backwards and forwards so that you have to maintain your balance while your feet slide along the floor. Aim to slowly slide forwards or backwards 4-6 inches, in a sawing motion. The further you push backwards, the more demanding the exercise. Repeat 10-20 times.

Medicine ball pullovers

Chosen by Zharnel Hughes, European 100m Sprint Champion

“I lie on my back with my knees bent at 90 degrees and bring a med ball from behind my head and up and over, while keeping my core tight. It’s tough but when you get good at it you can make little changes – so I also do one where I lift my legs off the ground and twist the ball from side to side too. Keep repeating it slowly so you are under tension at all times.”

How to do it: Lie on your back with your knees bent at 90 degrees and hold a medicine ball above your head. Keeping your core contracted and your arms straight, gently lower the ball behind your head until there is a straight line from your hips to your hands. Slowly raise the ball back up to the starting position and repeat ten times.

One-arm planks

Chosen by Alex Gregory, double Olympic rowing champion

“Core endurance is very important for athletes and that is why I always liked to do exercises that involve an element of imbalance. I used to do one-arm planks. They are dynamic exercises so you are always moving. It is good for sports like rowing where you are never in a stable or balanced position. The boat is always moving and so are you, and you have to be strong during that movement. Lie in a plank position and then move one arm up so you are off balance. You then swap one arm for the other after 30 seconds. It is so hard but so good.”

How to do it: Adopt a press-up position, but with your elbows bent and your weight resting on your forearms. Brace your abs and keep your back straight. Now raise your right arm until it is in line with your body. Hold for 30 seconds and then repeat with your other arm. Aim for 3-5 reps per side.

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This post originally appeared on The Telegraph and was published August 14, 2018. This article is republished here with permission.