I’m an Olympic gymnast, and these are the 3 exercises for core strength I do on repeat


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Photo: Stocksy / Milles Studio

Who doesn’t love watching gymnasts flip, swing, and leap their way through the Olympics? They make it look easy, but it requires some serious power to achieve such awe-inspiring feats. Whether they perform on the bars, on the floor, or on the beam, Olympic gymnasts know that doing regular exercises for core strength makes all the difference.

Alisa Kano, a group rhythmic gymnast—and part of Team USA!—who competed at the 2016 Olympic Games, knows that without strong abs, her job would be pretty difficult. “The abdominal muscles are one of the most important muscle groups for a gymnast,” she says. “When we balance, jump, turn, and overextend our bodies in different positions, our core does most of the work in keeping the other body parts in the correct positions—especially when it comes to supporting our backs. It’s not only important for preventing injuries, but a necessary component in successfully executing these elements.”

To maintain her impressive core strength, Kano has three go-to exercises. If you want abs like a gymnast, start with this routine.

The best exercises for core strength, according to an Olympian

1. V-ups

V-ups aren’t easy, but they certainly get the job done. “This exercise engages both my upper and lower body,” she says. “You can’t beat a two-in-one exercise where you’re able to work out several muscle groups at once.”

How to do V-ups:

  • Begin on your back with your knees extended and arms above head.
  • Simultaneously bring both straight legs and your upper body toward the ceiling. As your body comes together, try to reach for your toes. Think of the letter “v,” as you’re making that shape with your body.

2. Bicycles

Bicycles are seriously underrated when it comes to strengthening your abs. “I like bicycles because of the slight rotational factor,” Kano says. “That will help target the obliques as well.”

How to do bicycles:

  • Begin on your back with your hands behind your head.
  • Lift one knee toward your chest while the opposite elbow reaches toward that same knee.
  • After touching your opposite knee to elbow, switch to the other side.
  • Keep alternating sides, just as you would when riding a bicycle.

3. Scissor kicks

Scissor kicks do more than just make your core strong. “This is considered an isometric exercise, which means your core will be in a continuously contracted state while your lower extremities do the moving,” Kano says. “Isometric exercises are also great for endurance. I love this one because after a few seconds, you really feel the burn.”

How to do scissor kicks:

  • Begin on your back with your legs extended and hands beside your body.
  • Simultaneously lift your upper body and legs slightly off the ground. Your arms will be at the side of your body the entire exercise. Think of creating the shape of a boat.
  • Hold this position and begin to do the “cutting” motion with your straight legs, crossing your legs one over the other but making sure your knees are straight the whole exercise. The movement can be small and quick, alternating one leg over the other.

If you want to keep sweating, try this 15-minute ab workout:

This 10-minute core workout will make you feel stronger than ever. Then when you want to up the intensity of your ab workouts, just add dumbbells.

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