How’s this for a big-rewards exercise routine: an ab workout for women that not only helps tone and tighten those essential core muscles, but also makes everyday activities—like picking up kids, hoisting boxes and loading the dishwasher—a cinch. Created by Equinox group fitness instructor Sabrina Cohen, the woman behind the club’s Hard Core Abs class, this routine will leave you feeling strong and stable. For best results, do three sets of each of the moves below, in order. (New to exercise? Only do as many reps as you can manage while maintaining good form.)
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Overhead Press Lunge
Real-life use: Putting that big box away on a top shelf.
How-to: Stand with feet shoulder-width, a dumbbell in each hand, arms out to the sides at shoulder height with elbows bent to 90 degrees. Focus on pulling your belly button in toward your back throughout the move. Press the dumbbells overhead, extending your arms toward the ceiling (A). Step a long step forward with your left foot, rolling through your foot from heel to toe, bending your front knee to 90 degrees and driving your back knee down toward the floor (B). Push into both feet to return to previous position, then lower weights to original position. Repeat on the opposite side; that’s one rep. Do 15 reps.
Real-life use: Fishing out your child’s favorite toy from way underneath the bed.
How-to: Begin in plank position with wrists directly beneath your shoulders, feet shoulder-width with toes tucked, and your body in a straight line from head to heels (A). Without letting your hips sag, lift your right hand and reach it underneath your body and to the left as far as you can (B). Bring your hand back to the right, allowing your body to rotate as you reach your right fingertips up to the ceiling (C). Repeat on the opposite side; that’s one rep. Do 15 reps.
Real-life use: Picking up tired toddlers.
How-to: Stand with feet wider than shoulder-width, toes turned out slightly, a pair of dumbbells on the floor in between your feet. Keeping your shoulders higher than your hips and your head and chest lifted throughout the move, push your hips back to squat down and grasp the weights (A). With weights in hand and arms long, straighten your legs to return to standing (B). Squat back down and put weights back on the floor; return to standing. That’s one rep; do 15 reps.
Real-life use: Standing up after sitting on the floor or sitting up after lying in bed.
How-to: Begin lying on the floor with hands behind your head, knees bent, left foot flat on the floor and your right foot tucked underneath your left leg (A). Tighten your ab muscles and curl up to come to sitting with your spine extended, keeping your elbows wide (B). Continue to move up and forward, leading with your head and chest, to come to kneeling on your right knee (C). Reverse the movement to return to starting position, then repeat on the opposite side. That’s one rep; do 15 reps.
Real-life use: Twisting activities like vacuuming and loading the dishwasher.
How-to: Stand with feet hip-width and knees slightly bent; hold a dumbbell in both hands over your right shoulder (A). Keeping your chest lifted, twist your torso as you swiftly move the dumbbell down past your left hip (B) — think of your spine as a dishrag you’re wringing out — then return to starting position. (Want more challenge? Step your right leg back and lower into a lunge as you twist.) Repeat on the opposite side; that’s one rep. Do 15 reps.