“What is the best ab workout?” “Do ab machines work?” “How do I target my lower abs?”

I know these types of questions all too well. Not only have I asked them myself, but as a fitness professional, I get them all the time in the fitness industry. Most people walk into a gym and don’t know exactly what to use or how to target specific areas of their core. Crunches? Effective, but, BORING! Planks? Effective, great for stabilizing the core, but, BORING! Let’s face it, ab workouts can be boring. After a tough workout, the last thing people want to do is core. However, there are a few ways to make sure you are getting your core workout in, without having to dread the post workout floor exercises.

1. Engage Your Core
During your workout, engage and brace your core during every movement. Being aware of your core during every movement will help with stabilization and help keep your back straight. It will also help with overall posture and help avoid injury.

During compound movements, such as a deadlift, it is often easy to forget about your core when the movement localizes in your legs and back. However, your legs and back are both a part of your core and foundation. By bracing your core, it helps keep that back straight. Once your back and shoulders round, your legs pick up a lot of slack. Throwing out your lower back by lifting a heavy load then becomes a serious potential issue.

2. Work Them Into Circuits
An easy way to ensure you are getting those ab workouts in, is by incorporating them into your workout. For my training program, I do a lot of circuits and supersets. I have found that by not only engaging my core, but also incorporating exercises such as planks, v-up and russian twists into my circuits, I don’t feel bad about being too tired after my workout to run myself through an ab workout sequence.

This method is also helpful because it can turn even a weight training sequence into a little HIIT workout, which is optimal for fat loss. It is important to push yourself, whether it means an extra set or sometimes just getting to the gym at all. HIIT is perfect for those days to maximize your workout, especially, if you don’t have a lot of time to spare.

3. Use Ab Exercise Equipment
As I touched on before, many people don’t know what to do when it comes to ab workouts. It doesn’t always have to be movements on the floor; in fact, most gyms have abdominal exercise equipment somewhere. The Ab Coaster and the Vertical Crunch are great machines for users of all fitness levels. Another good thing about ab machines, is that a lot of them allow you to add and remove weight depending on personal preference.

I know new ab machines can seem scary, especially if you’ve never used them before. However, you must start somewhere and ab machines are a great way to fill in the blanks when you don’t know what to do or if what you are doing is actually working! These are designed to guide you and to make sure you are targeting all of those tough spots that floor exercises may not touch.

Ab exercises are a great way to switch up your workouts and give your other muscles a break. Next time you hit the gym, give it a try! Try out a machine you’ve never used, give your workout a revamp with a new superset or transform your workout into a sweaty HIIT session! Break up some bicep curls with 10 leg raises and 10 butterfly crunches. You won’t regret it and you will leave the gym feeling more accomplished, knowing you hit your abs too!

Emily Carrara is our resident personal trainer and Social Media Manager. She’s a  graduate of James Madison University where she studied Marketing and Business. As a lifelong athlete, she has always had a love for fitness. She is now working towards her NASM certification and is a 1st Phorm Legionnaire.