Want to build your core strength and actually get results? Then look no further. Jess Ennis-Hill shares her expert principles on making it happen, then gives you a 30-day Next-level ab challenge to help you get there...
If you want to build on your core strength and improve ab definition, it's actually easier than you think. You just need to apply a few lesser-known training principles, as Jess explains below.
1. It’s not just about crunches
“Getting great abs isn’t just about banging out loads of crunches and doing as many as you can every day,” explains Jess Ennis-Hill. “It’s about having variety in your training, making sure you’re testing your body in different ways and moving it in different directions.
“The key is to exercise your whole body rather than concentrating on one body part, so it’s about working your legs, working your upper body, doing lots of rotational elements and making sure you’re conditioning yourself in a really full way. By doing that, you’ll definitely develop your abs. That’s why I feature so much variety in my new Next-Level ab challenge.”
2. Don’t skip the cardio
“To really create stomach definition you need to add cardio to the mix, which is why simply doing sit-ups isn’t going to cut it,” says Jess. “The key is in getting your heart rate up, so running, cycling or Jennis home HIIT sessions all help – but some cardio workouts are more effective than others.
“According to a recent study , the hands-down winner when it comes to torching fat is high-intensity (HIIT) exercise workouts, like the circuits featured in my 30-day ab challenge. These provide more calorie burn per minute than steady sessions like running or cycling.” You can read about how many calories you can burn doing a Jennis Fitness HIIT circuit.
3. Embrace burpees. Honestly
“Everyone hates burpees (me included) but they’re probably the very best bodyweight exercise that exists, working loads of muscles and really revving up that metabolism” explains Jess. “I’ve said it already but I really mean it. To get great abs it’s about a variety of exercises and burpees do it all – working your core, burning fat, building muscle and revving your metabolism, while also strengthening arms, back, chest, legs and glutes.”
4. Go old-school with bicycle crunches
“Okay, so while I said that you shouldn’t focus on crunches, there is one crunch-style move worth including in your exercise routine. According to this study , bicycle crunches apparently offer the most effective ab workout there is, targeting your lower stomach and obliques.”
5. Focus on your whole core
“Rather than thinking abs-only, choose moves that will give your ‘whole’ core a workout – so that means not just your abs, but your back and pelvis, too,” says Jess.
“A strong core is really important for your overall body health as it protects the spine, improves your posture, reduces risk of injury, and decreases risk of lower back pain. And, in the long-term, that’s good news for your abs.
“Some of my favourite core moves include single leg sprints, squat thrusts, plank , side plank, side plank opener and burpees.”
Reminder: your core isn't just your six-pack muscles. It's actually layers of deep muscles that help support your pelvis, spine, back, hips and stomach.
6. Shake up your diet
Finally, there’s a saying that great abs are made in the kitchen, which basically means that exercise alone won’t give you amazing abs. With this in mind, try and eat a healthy, balanced diet – otherwise you could sabotage all your good work. Focus on fresh vegetables, fruit, lean meats, fish, pulses and wholegrains, and try to cut down on refined sugars.
7. The 30-day Next-Level Ab Challenge
To make it easy to apply all these principles, Jess has created a new Next-Level 30-day ab challenge in the Jennis app. This mixes up HIIT with strength, includes running sessions and gives as much focus to recovery as finishers. There's tons of variety and you can choose your level before you start - choose from Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced
Check out the Jennis CycleMapping app for daily workouts and advice that’s synced to your menstrual cycle
Read what Refinery 29 had to say about the programme