There's a lot you can accomplish in 10 minutes. You can clean out your fridge, catch up on e-mails, or—our favorite—squeeze in a quick workout. According to research, getting just 10 minutes of exercise can deliver some major mind/body benefits, and this week's episode of Trainer of the Month gives you a quickie core series that will strengthen your muscles in less time than it takes to clear your inbox.
Brought to us by Form Fitness founder Morit Summers, it's the perfect routine to squeeze in whenever you've got a few free minutes to spare, and will leave you feeling accomplished before you head into the rest of your day. The best part? It's only got five moves—all of which can be done with or without weights, and none of which feel like you're working your core at all.
1. Alternating marches
This first move is meant to wake up your muscles and prep your body for the rest of the routine. "It probably seems like a lower-body movement, but it really is a core stability movement," says Summers. Just note that in order to reap the full benefits, you'll want to focus on bracing your abs while you march.
With weights on your sides (or, if you aren't using them, with your arms by your sides), lift one knee at a time over your hips—sort of like a standing crunch—taking care that your hips and feet don't move too far off to the sides of your body. Want to take things up a notch? Raise the dumbbells onto your shoulders, or for an extra challenge, lift them over your head.
2. Alternating halos
This exercise forces you to engage your core in order to keep your body still while you rotate a dumbbell around your head. Grab a single weight with one hand on either end (or, if you aren't using weights, simply clasp your hands together) and rotate it around your head to create a "halo." Remember to not arch your back as you do this exercise—it's all about the core!
3. Weighted sit-ups
Take your standard sit-up to the next level by adding weight into the mix. Lying on the ground, you can choose to either bend your legs (which is the most challenging version of the move) or keep them straight (which is slightly easier). Once you've found the position you're most comfortable in, hold the weight on the floor above your head, then raise it toward the sky, pulling your body as you go. Of course, you can skip the weight and just do a regular sit-up, but keep in mind that "a lot of people have a hard time doing sit-ups but sometimes the weight can actually help," says Summers.
4. Plank shoulder taps
Starting in a high plank with your core engaged to create a straight line from the top of your head to the bottoms of your feet, alternate tapping each hand to the opposite shoulder. Depending on how you're feeling, you can either take this move on your toes or your knees—just be sure to focus on keeping your core activated so that your body stays still (no hips swaying from side to side!).
5. Leg lowers
This final move will hit those hard-to-reach low abs. Start by laying on the ground, with your legs lifted toward the ceiling to create a 90-degree angle with your upper body (if keeping them straight is too challenging, you can bend your knees to make the exercise slightly easier). Use your core to slowly lower your legs toward the ground, stopping before they touch the floor, then use your core to raise them back up to start.
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