Traditional abs moves typically have you posted up on the floor, crunching and planking for that burn, but that’s not the only way to work your abs. Believe it or not, you can actually strengthen them without dedicating a single minute of your workout to abs-only moves. It’s all about those compound exercises, or moves that work several muscle groups at once, explains Erica Villani, a master trainer at Crunch. “By nature, compound movements involve the entire body, and the core is the center of gravity in stabilizing all of the muscles in order to perform the movement properly,” she explains.
So while you might be focusing on your butt, legs, or back, they’re actually standing abs exercises, too—if you’re engaging your core properly. The key is to brace your abs during these movements to fire up your core, like you were preparing for a punch to the gut. “Bracing in these movements is absolutely crucial to performing them properly. [Bracing] tightens your abdominal wall, which will force your abs to do a lot of the work, causing the muscles to get stronger,” says Villani. No crunches required.
You can tell you’re working your abs during compound exercises like these if your core starts to feel fatigued, says Vallani. “If you don’t feel it in your abs, try also squeezing your glutes, too. Often times, this puts the hips in place so you can adequately fire up your abdominal muscles.” You can also do a form check and make sure you’re doing the move right, or check in to make sure your abs are braced. You may also notice that you can get deeper into the moves with your core powering you (which also allows you to move through your hips properly), says Villani. This means your other muscles (like your legs or butt) can get more out of the moves, too. Win-win.
Here are five exercises that focus on your butt and legs while giving your abs a serious workout, too. Once you’ve got the moves down, you can even set them up into a workout. Villani suggests doing a set of 10 reps of each move, followed by a set of 9 reps, then 8 reps, etc., until you’re down to 5 reps each.