Six-pack abs anyone? If your answer is “yes, please,” you can get just that with a toning workout routine for core and cardio. These multi-tasking core exercises will leave you breathless, combining core work with weights and movement. This challenging type of workout will help you improve both your strength and definition, giving you both aesthetic and functional results.
What Makes Up Your “Core”
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Your core is made up of quite a few muscles, not just the sexy “six-pack” you see in magazines (which is your rectus abdominus). Your abdominal region houses the transverse adominus, multifidus, internal obliques, external obliques, erector spinae, diaphragm, pelvic muscles, and yes, the rectus abdominus.
But your “core” isn’t only the front and sides of your stomach area. It’s also comprised of some other peripheral muscles, including your back muscles like your lats and lower back and even your glutes.
All of these muscles create a protective shield around your vital organs and assist functional movement in many planes.
Why You Should Use a Toning Routine to Get a Tight Core
When you’re really fit, your core is going to speak for itself. As the spot where most folks tend to store copious amounts of body fat, having a chiseled core can be somewhat of an anomaly. Nothing screams “I’m in shape” like a nice tight core with minimal body fat. But how do you get that? Combining core exercises with some resistance, whether it’s body weight, bands, dumbbells, kettlebells, or cables, you’ll get both the toning you’re after and some nice fat burning, too, due to the oxygen intake needed to complete these vigorous movements.
Building muscle is the name of the game when it comes to youthfulness and fitness. It’s important to keep your muscles toned (yes, the old adage, “use it or lose it” applies here in spades). While you could do endless repetitions of sit-ups and crunches, you just won’t get the same benefits as you will from using a toning workout routine.
What is a Toning Workout Routine?
A toning workout is going to involve some resistance but only enough so you can still complete a lot of repetitions. You’ll want to tax the muscles you’re working with a lot of volume in every workout. Aim for 20 or more repetitions without stopping and then rest in-between sets for 1 – 2 minutes. Remember, this is a cardio workout, too, so the goal is to rest just enough so you can catch your breath before continuing (stay breathless!).
Try This Ultimate Toning Routine for Your Core
Don’t skip the warm-up! Even if you’re “just’ working your core or doing cardio, it’s still important to get your body warmed up, the blood moving, and your muscles pliable. Walk or bike for 5 – 10 minutes or choose a warm-up exercise of your choice.
Technically, all you would really have to do is work your entire body regularly and get plenty of cardiovascular exercise to reveal a tight, toned core. But, if you’re ready to do some direct core work, use these exercises for the ultimate toning workout routine:
1. Mountain Climbers
These will leave you breathless and crush that core. Start in the plank position (on your toes with your palms on the ground, arms straight and aligned under your shoulders). Next, bring your right knee up to your chest. Straighten your leg again while now bringing your left knee up to your chest. The idea is to get into a pace where you are almost “running.”
Although the name is deceptively simple, V-ups are, in reality, actually quite difficult to perform. Start by lying on your back with your arms by your sides and your legs straight. Next, simultaneously lift your head and torso off the ground while lifting your legs up to form a “V” with your body. (You can bend your knees or, for an even greater challenge, keep them straight.) Remember, we are not creating a “U,” so make sure you keep your head aligned with your torso.
Once you’re in the “V” position, slowly lower your torso and legs back to the start and then repeat. To intensify the cardio aspect of this movement, try bringing your right arm and left leg toward each other at the top of the movement and then repeat for the opposite side before returning to the start.
3. Crab Crawls
This may look “fun,” but it’s quite difficult. Start by sitting on the ground. Bend your knees to place your feet on the floor in front of you and your hands by your hips, palms down and facing forward. Lift your hips off the ground and start crab walking forward by picking up your right leg and left hand at the same time and then your left leg and right hand to move forward. You can also walk backward once you’ve reached your desired repetitions or distance.
4. Single-Arm Kettlebell Walk
These will really help you improve your balance as you strengthen your core. Start by holding a kettlebell in your right hand and bring your arm straight up overhead. Now walk forward for 15 steps. Bring the kettlebell down and hold the kettlebell in the left hand to repeat on the opposite side. While this may not sound like much, holding the uneven weight overhead while walking will present quite a challenge. Do 4 sets of 15 reps on each side.
5. Plank Up Downs
This is the penultimate core exercise. If you do no other core exercise, this is the one that you should keep in your exercise arsenal. But, to make this a one-two punch for core and cardio, you’ll want to incorporate this twist, literally.
Start with your hands and knees on the floor, palms down with wrists aligned under your shoulders and your arms straight. Next, get up on your toes and scoot your feet back until your legs are straight. This is the “plank” position. Keeping your body in a straight line (core tight, no butts in the air), bend your right arm and, with control, lower down until your forearm is on the ground. Next, do the same for your left side until you are on both forearms with your body remaining in the plank position.
Now push back up with your right hand to straighten your arm completely. Do the same on your left side. Keep doing this sequence until you’ve done five rotations on one side and then do five starting with the opposite side.
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These can be done with kettlebells, cables, dumbbells, or bands, but regardless of the instrument used, they are bound to work all areas of your core and keep your heart rate up. Start with your feet about hip-width apart and hold a weight with both hands in front of you. Twist your torso to the right as you use both arms to lift the weight up and to your right. Bring the weight back down across your body to the left, bending slightly at the knees to reverse the motion and swing the weight back up. Continue with 20 swings up and to your right and then repeat with 20 swings up and to your left.
Don’t neglect the role of a healthy diet, too, when it comes to revealing all your hard work with your core and cardio routine. When you’re in shape and you regularly eat a healthy nutrient-rich, calorie-controlled diet, your core is going to reflect it. You can do all the ab work in the world, but if your core is covered with a layer of fat, you’ll never see the fruits of your labor.