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The World’s Smallest (Effective) Core Workout

You already know that abs are built (well, revealed) in the kitchen: unless you’re eating right, there’s no way you’re ever going to see the six-pack you’re crafting. That’s why, to get a midsection worth showing off, you should expend most of your effort on nutrition: packing in the colourful veg, getting regular hits of protein and drinking a minimum of two litres of water a day. Making time to shop, prep and cook food will pay dividends: it’s probably where most of your effort should go.

But what about once you’ve stripped the fat? Whether it’s beach season or triathlon time, you still want a core that gets the job done – and that’s where this ab workout comes in. It’s based on the latest training science to ensure that you’re making maximum gains in minimal time: with old moves replaced by cutting-edge exercises. Get warm, hit the deck and do a couple of rounds after your regular workout session – or at home in front of the TV, whenever you’ve got time.

Switch sit-ups for… dead bugs

Done badly, sit-ups put excessive strain on your lower back, work your hip flexors more than your abs… and even done well, they’re not ideal – after all, how many times in real life do you use your abs to do hundreds of tiny movements?

The move: Lie on your back with your arms pointing straight up in the air, bending your knees and hips to a 90-degree angle. Tighten your abs and press your lower back into the floor, then take a deep breath in. As you breathe out, slowly extend your left leg toward the floor and bring your right arm overhead so that it almost touches the floor, then come back to the start position and repeat on the other side.

Reps: 5 each side

Swap crunches for… bird dogs

In real life, your core does its best work when it’s resisting movement – whether that means staying on your feet when an obstacle race gets muddy, or not falling over when the bus brakes sharply. To help it out, you’ll want to include work for your obliques and lower back: crunches don’t do that, but ‘bird dogs’ (not to be confused with downward dogs) will.

The move: From the dead bug, roll onto your front and move onto your hands and knees. Bring one arm straight forward and the opposite leg straight out behind you, pause for a couple of seconds and lower under control. Repeat on the other side.

Reps: 5 each side

Upgrade your plank to… the super-plank

Planks are an excellent move, but… they take a while. If you’ve been training for a while, you can probably already hold one for a couple of minutes – and there’s always someone in the office who claims they can grind it out for an entire episode of Casualty. This isn’t strictly wrong, but at the very least it’s inefficient: surely there’s a way to get the same gains in less time? Yup.

The move: It’s the plank, but nastier. Bring your elbows forward and away from your body, then drive them into the floor until you feel your back and ab muscles engage. At the same time, squeeze your heels and glutes together, and tense your body as hard as possible. You shouldn’t be able to hold the move for more than 10-15 seconds: if you can, go harder.

Time: 10 seconds

Read on to find out why staying hydrated will help your abs

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