By Leigh Ann Thomas, Certified Personal Trainer 

For many of us cooler temperatures mean thicker, bulkier clothing, comfort foods and a mindset that sends us into hibernation mode rather than beast mode. But don’t allow yourself to fall victim to this way of thinking. The winter is the best time to kick-start your summer six pack. In addition to just looking good in a bikini, you also want your core to function as the powerhouse that it is. Having a strong core leads to better posture, improved balance, prevention of lower back pain and assists other muscle groups in lifting  heavier (and steadier) during your workouts. Performing compound movements (think: squats, push ups, pull ups) will help to strengthen your overall core, but the best way to train your abs is to isolate them through specific exercises. 

These three exercises will strengthen your core, maximize your potential during workouts and improve the way you look on the outside as well. Perform these moves regularly and you’ll be able to see and feel a difference before you know it.

  • Planks – up on your hands or down on your forearms, this isometric hold will work the deepest, innermost muscles, also known as the rectus abdominis, that make up a portion your abdominal region. You may do this move in all types of directions, modifications and duration to work multiple muscle groups at the same time.
  • Farmer’s walk – this functional movement will make carrying groceries into the house from your car a breeze! This move forces your abs to stabilize your spine to stay upright and maintain good posture while carrying heavy loads. Simply grab two kettle bells or dumbbells (one for each hand) that are the same weight (ideally you want heavy weights). Squat down to pick them up and walk slowly with your head and chest up, shoulders back for a distance of 60 seconds. Surprisingly, this is a killer ab workout!
  • Captain Chair leg raises - This move can be done at the gym on a machine that only requires your body weight. With your back and arms rested on the designated padding, allow your legs and hips to hang below you. With the strength of your abdominal muscles, you want to raise your legs up before you as high as your body will allow you to go. The stronger you get, the higher your legs will be able to go. Ideally, you want to bring your knees as high as your forehead.
  • Bridge: Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Slowly raise your hips off the floor,tightening your abdominal muscles as you go and holding your hips as high up as you can for up to 60 seconds.

While it’s important to develop a strong midsection, it’s also important not over train your abs. Like anything else, balance is key. In conjunction with your other workouts, aim to incorporate at least 15 minutes of core training three times a week. It may be challenging at first, but even if you start with one 15 minute session, you’re already making progress towards a stronger core!  If you suffer from an injury or are unsure how to properly perform most exercises, consult with a Personal Trainer to create a plan that’s right for you.