“I recall the moment exactly,” says Steinfeld while chatting with Well+Good at an event for Core Hydration, for which Steinfeld is a spokesperson. The memory is burned into the actress and singer’s mind because Clarkson asked hyperbolically whether Steinfeld did “3,000 crunches a day,” to which Steinfeld said, “Every day. 3,000 is the number."
“I was joking!” says Steinfeld now, throwing her hands in the air. Still, her answer at the time sparked articles and conversation, to the extent that Steinfeld’s supposed 3,000-crunch abs routine became a pop culture moment. “It absolutely was made a thing,” Steinfeld says, sighing.
Clarkson did have good reason to ask about Steinfeld’s abs routine. She works out with her father, Peter Steinfeld, a personal trainer, and the Hawkeye star says that fitness and recovery are both a big part of her life.
So what is Steinfeld doing to keep those abs poppin’ if not 3,000 crunches daily?
Currently, her favorite move is an obliques-focused exercise called windshield wipers. It involves lying on your back, lifting your legs into the air with your knees bent in tabletop (knees over hips, shins parallel to the floor) or straight (which is more challenging) and extended at a 45-degree angle. Hands can be by your sides pressing into the floor or behind your head (the hardest variation). From there, you slowly lower your legs from side to side with control.
Steinfeld loves the move because she says it’s as if she’s tricking herself into feeling like she’s just lying down. “I convince myself that it's really not that much work,” Steinfeld says. “And that's what gets me through it.” Steinfeld is a big fan of using mental techniques to power her workouts. She previously told Well+Good that imagining how amazing she'll feel after a workout is her secret weapon when she really doesn't want to work out.
But especially when it comes to windshield wipers, Steinfeld is right to play that mental game with herself, because they're a super-challenging move that engages your whole core. That includes your internal and external obliques, as well as other muscle groups “such as your rectus abdominis, erector spinae, and your hip flexors,” says Azul Corajoria, a certified health coach and personal trainer. “Within the movement, you’re rotating whilst also holding your legs in an isometric hold, so it requires a lot of strength and control within a significant, unstable range of motion.”
The key to getting it right is maintaining good form, staying in control, and not letting gravity or momentum do the work. “When performing a windshield wiper, keep your lower back on the ground, don’t let it arch, and engage your core muscles,” Corajoria says. “Go slow so you stay in control of the weight, and don’t let your legs touch the floor on either side.”
There are multiple ways to modify the windshield wipers to suit your fitness level
“Windshield wipers are an advanced move, so if they feel impossible to do at first, modify the movement and work your way up to them,” Corajoria says. “Some great ways to do that would be by bending your knees 90 degrees (instead of keeping your legs straight) and shortening your range of motion (don’t go as deep from side to side). If you want to make it more difficult, you can put a exercise ball between your feet, bring your arms closer to your body, or do them hanging from a pull-up bar instead of lying on the floor.”
Keep in mind, windshield wipers are just one part of an extensive fitness routine Steinfeld does under the supervision of her pro-trainer father. The real secret to those abs is clearly a personalized fitness regimen. But for a little fitspo, you can incorporate this exercise into your own routine, and enjoy that time on the floor, just like she does.
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