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You need to try this do-anywhere ab workout from fitness star Holly Rilinger


Holly Rillinger Pin It
Photo: Abby Drucker
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Photo: Hachette Book Group

Real talk: sometimes a girl just doesn’t feel like hitting up a yoga class to get a dose of spirituality with her sweat sesh. Enter Lifted, fitness star Holly Rilinger‘s workout program that’s crafted to strengthen your mind, body, and spirit.

Rilinger is a leader on the NYC boutique fitness scene where she’s packed spin classes for six years, has a big-deal role as a Master Nike trainer, and starred on Bravo’s drama-filled fitness reality show Workout NY. (She was known as the “super nice one.”)

While some fast-paced workout classes break you down, Lifted is all about building you up with a mix of cardio, positive-thinking exercises, and guided-meditation sessions. “When you’re not happy with your body, it brings down your spirit,” Rilinger says. “When you have too much on your mind, that stress can cause your body to store fat. When your spirit’s down, you may make unhealthier lifestyle and nutritional choices that keep you from moving forward. And these are just a few ways all three affect each other.”

And good news if you want to try it but don’t live in Rilinger’s home base of New York City: She just released her first book, Lifted, featuring a 28-day full-body workout program and, bonus, her fave healthy recipes, too. Your workout plan for each day is outlined, and there are photos of all the moves, so you know exactly what to do. (It’s pretty fool-proof.)

The book is designed so at the end of each workout, you feel physically, mentally, and spiritually stronger. For a sneak preview of what to expect, Rilinger is sharing the book’s ab workout—with modifications for fitness junkies of all levels—exclusively with Well+Good.

Ready to get lifted? Scroll down to see Holly Rilinger’s go-to ab workout.

Get Started
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Lifted ab aworkout
All gifs by Abby Maker for Well+Good

Bird Dogs (14 reps)

Get set!: Get on the floor on your hands and knees, with your hands positioned directly below your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Keep your neck straight, your head in line with your spine, facing down toward the floor, and your core muscles right.

Go!: Maintaining your balance, extend your right arm straight out in front of your as you simultaneously extend your left leg straight back. Resist the urge to look upward—your head should stay in line with your spine. Pause for one second at the top, return to the Get Set! position and repeat the exercise, this time extending your left arm straight out in front and extend your right leg back. Continue to alternate for the duration of the exercise.

Until you’re ready to fly!: Instead of extending one arm and leg simultaneously, try doing one at a time.

Lift yourself higher!: Once you’re in the extended position—one arm and one leg straightened out—instead of just placing them back on the floor, try drawing elbow and knee toward each other under your body until they touch. Then, extend your arm and leg out once more, then put them on the floor. Or instead of starting the exercise on your knees, get into a push-up position and perform the move—you’ll find this challenges your balance even more.

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Holly Rilinger plank

Plank (40 seconds)

Get Set!: Get yourself in the same position as if you were about to do a push-up, with your legs extended straight behind you, your weight resting on your toes and the balls of your feet. But instead of placing your hands on the floor, bend your arms and rest on your forearms. Your elbows should be directly below your shoulders, with your head facing down. Finally, pull in your stomach and tighten your core muscles.

Go!: Actually, let me rephrase that—stay! You’ll hold this position for the required amount of time. Your body should remain straight. If your hips drop, you’ll place too much stress on your lower back. If your butt raises up too far, you’ll make the move less effective.

Until you’re ready to fly!: If you can’t hold the position or find yourself breaking form, try a modified plank by starting with your knees on the floor. Or do the move as described for as long as you can, rest for a few seconds, then continue until your time is up.

Lift yourself higher!: You can hold the pose for a longer period of time or try raising one foot a few inches off the floor to challenge your stability (just make sure you give equal time to balance on the opposite leg).

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high knees

High Knees (40 seconds)

Get set!: Stand straight, with your arms hanging down from your sides.

Go!: Begin sprinting at a fast pace. As you go, try to bring each knee up as high as possible toward your chest. Swing whichever arm is opposite the knee you’re raising forward to help you build momentum. Something about this move makes me feel like I’m chasing down my dreams. I tell my students that you’re either running away from something—or toward something. It’s always sweeter to run toward something, so envision something you want to chase down with this move.

Until you’re ready to fly!: Either lower the speed or just raise your knees as far as you comfortably can.

Lift yourself higher!: Try to up the intensity by moving as fast as you can, as if you were seconds away from crossing the finish line.

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Russian twists

Russian Twists (40 seconds)

Get set!: Sit on the floor with your knees bent, feet crossed, and your heels raised off the floor. Straighten your arms out in front of you, and clasp your hands, then slowly lean back until your torso is at a 45-degree angle. You should be balancing on just your butt.

Go!: Keeping your arms straight and feet raised on the floor, slowly rotate to the right as far as you can without losing your balance. Return to the Get Set position, then repeat the move by slowly rotating to the left. Keep alternating back and forth throughout the exercise for the required amount of time.

Until you’re ready to fly!: If you can’t keep your balance, place your feet flat on the floor shoulder width apart.

Lift yourself higher!: Hold a light dumbbell or a medicine ball with both hands to add more weight to the move.

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high knees

High Knees (40 seconds)

Get set!: Stand straight, with your arms hanging down from your sides.

Go!: Begin sprinting at a fast pace. As you go, try to bring each knee up as high as possible toward your chest. Swing whichever arm is opposite the knee you’re raising forward to help you build momentum. Something about this move makes me feel like I’m chasing down my dreams. I tell my students that you’re either running away from something—or toward something. It’s always sweeter to run toward something, so envision something you want to chase down with this move.

Until you’re ready to fly!: Either lower the speed or just raise your knees as far as you comfortably can.

Lift yourself higher!: Try to up the intensity by moving as fast as you can, as if you were seconds away from crossing the finish line.

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reach backs

Reach Backs (7 reps each side)

Get set!: Begin by sitting on the floor with your legs bent in front of you, toes raised and heels on the floor. Strengthen your arms in front of you, aiming your fingers toward your feet.

Go!: With your core muscles braced for stability, keep your right arm pointing forward as you lean back and reach behind yourself as far as possible with your left hand. Try to stay focused on staying balanced on your butt as you go. Touch the floor with your left hand, then bring yourself back to the Get Set position. Repeat the exercise again, only this time keep your left arm pointed forward as you reach back with your right hand.

Until you’re ready to fly!: If you’re having a hard time balancing, try bending your legs more so your feet remain flat on the floor. If that’s still difficult, try placing the hand of whichever arm is pointing forward as you lean back on your leg.

Lift yourself higher!: To really challenge your core muscles, try keeping your heels elevated above the floor no more than an inch throughout the entire exercise.

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goddess situps

Goddess Sit-Ups (14 reps)

Get set!: Lie flat on your back with your arms straight down at your side, palms down. Place the soles of your feet together so your knees point out to the sides—this helps release your psoas, the deep muscle that connects your spine to your legs.

Go!: Keeping the soles of your keep together, contract your core muscles, then slowly curl your head, shoulders, and back off the floor as you extend your arms forward toward your feet. Stop when your back is about a 45-degree angle from the floor, then lower yourself back down into the Get Set position.

Until you’re ready to fly!: Instead of placing the soles of your feet together, just perform a normal crunch. Start with your knees bent, feet flat on the floor, and your hands lightly touching behind your ears. Crunch up by raising your head and shoulders off the floor, then lower yourself back down.

Lift yourself higher!: Start with your arms extended behind you, then sweep them up and forward as you perform the move. For even more of a challenge, hold a light medicine ball or dumbbell with both hands.

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fast feet

Fast Feet (40 seconds)

Get set!: Stand with your feet a few inches apart and up on the balls of your feet, heels raised. Your arms should be bent at 90 degrees, elbows tucked into your sides, with your palms facing down.

Go!: Keeping your heels raised and arms up, step your feet up and down as quickly as you can—left foot, right foot. Don’t raise your feet any higher than an inch from the floor—this move is about moving as quickly as possible, not lifting yourself any higher than you need to.

Until you’re ready to fly!: Try the exercise at a slower pace.

Lift yourself higher!: Perform the exercise at full intensity, but extend your arms out to the sides with one arm up and one arm down. As you move your feet, quickly move your arms at the same time so that one is always down and the other is always up. Imagine someone is trying to get a ball past you, and you want to block the shot. Or if you have the space, try moving yourself both forward and backward as you go.

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v-ups

V-Ups (14 reps)

Get set!: Lie flat on your back with your legs straight and your arms at your sides.

Go!: Keeping your back flat, simultaneously raise your knees and torso up so they are both at a 45-degree angle (your thighs and torso from the side should look like the letter V). As you rise, extend your arms forward, pointing your hands toward your feet. Reverse the motion by lowering yourself back down to the floor to return to the Get Set position.

Until you’re ready to fly!: If you find it hard to balance or lack the core strength to come all the way up, just raise your legs and torso as high as you comfortably can.

Lift yourself higher!: There are many options you can try: in the up position, pause, then rotate from your waist to the left, then to the right, before lowering yourself back down each time. For more of a challenge, start the move with your arms extended alongside your head, then sweep them forward as you do the move. You can even add resistance by holding a light medicine ball or dumbbell.

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high plank with shoulder taps

High Plank with Shoulder Taps (40 seconds)

Get set!: Get down on the floor in a push-up position, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your legs extended behind you, feet also shoulder-width apart.

Go!: Maintaining your balance, shift your weight onto your right arm, then reach up with your left hand and touch your right shoulder. Place your hand back on the floor and repeat, this time shifting your weight onto your left arm and reaching up with your right hand to touch your left shoulder. Continue alternating back and forth for the duration of the exercise. As you go, don’t allow your body to twist—your hips should remain square to the floor at all times.

Until you’re ready to fly!: If you find it hard to maintain your balance, try the exercise with your knees on the ground.

Lift yourself higher!: To make the move more difficult, try doing it as slowly as possible.

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burpees

Burpees (14 reps)

Get set!: Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart and your arms hanging straight down from your sides.

Go!: Quickly bend down and place your hands flat on the floor, then immediately shoot your legs straight behind you so you end up in the top portion of a push-up. Bend your elbows, and drop your body to the floor. Then, without pausing, push yourself up, and immediately jump your feet forward so they land between your hands. Finally, quickly jump up as high as you can with your arms extended above your head. As you land, immediately repeat the exercise by bending down and putting your hands flat on the floor. The move should be continuous—think: squat, push-up, and jump—so don’t stop.

Until you’re ready to fly!: You can make this easier several ways. After you land, pause for a moment each time before continuing the exercise. Or skip the jumping part entirely and simply stand up for each repetition. Finally, instead of thrusting your legs back and/or jumping them forward, try stepping them forward or backward instead.

Lift yourself higher!: There are several ways to add more intensity to this already intense exercise. As you jump up, try turning in midair 180 degrees so you land in the opposite direction, or try tucking your knees up toward your chest.

This sequence is the perfect do-anywhere workout. But here’s what to do at the gym to make it your hardest workout ever—every time. And what’s the deal with the weight machines? Two experts go head-to-head on if it’s worth it.