The core is one of the most extensive and dynamic areas of the body. And, for many, figuring out how to work every last intrinsic muscle in the abdominals takes many workout sessions, patience, and good old-fashioned grit. Our core connects every part of our body and is essential for overall physical aptitude. But it’s slow to build strength and definition. That’s why multitasking ab workouts is a smart way to maximize your effort, allowing you to reach your upper and bottom abdominals all while sitting at your desk. Yep, you read that right. You can actually work out your abs while at your desk. So, the next time you’re answering emails or attempting not to yawn your way through a meeting, consider these six moves that work double time.
Sit on a stability ball.
This trick may be difficult if you’re stuck in a stuffy office setting. But if you can swing it, trade your traditional office chair for a stability ball, recommends personal trainer Ambyr Chatzopoulos, C.S.C.S. It’s oversized and bouncy, so you’ll have to continuously activate your abs and back to maintain a healthy posture. When you’re completing projects at your computer, she advises rotating your bum in small circles while sitting up straight. “Rotate first clockwise for ten repetitions and then counterclockwise for an equal number of reps. This will help you engage your obliques as well as your upper and lower abs,” she explains.
Take a mini fitness break instead of a coffee break.
If you’re lucky enough to have a close friend in your office, take advantage and turn them into your workout buddy. Get your partner in crime on board, and switch your usual 3 p.m. coffee pick-me-up to a heart-rate-inducing mini workout. Snag a conference room and take a page out of certified personal trainer and nutrition coach Jill McKay’s playbook. She suggests getting your blood flowing without working up (too much of) a sweat. “Try ten squats, ten push-ups, and holding a plank for a minute. It will not only help your body—and abs—feel stronger, but it will improve your mental clarity, too,” she notes.
March in place.
The saints were on the right track when they made their grand entrance by stomping. As physical therapist Lauren Lobert, D.P.T., O.M.P.T., C.S.C.S., explains, marching is a killer ab workout that you can do sitting, standing, anywhere, everywhere. “Maintaining an upright posture with a neutral lumbar spine position while you march is a great exercise to help strengthen your abdominals while sitting. Do this slowly and in control, focusing on not collapsing forward with your chest,” she instructs. Just try not to make too much noise or your deskmate may raise an eyebrow.
Hover your feet.
It may not seem like a difficult task, but when was the last time you held your feet up for an extended period of time by using only your abs? Fitness expert Amy Jordan swears by this seemingly easy—but challenging—exercise. Sit with your feet flat on the floor and your knees bent at a 90-degree angle. “Rock your pelvis side to side to make sure you’re sitting on two sitting bones,” she explains. “Then imagine a sheet of paper is being slid under your right foot as if it’s still touching the ground but nearly weightless.” Gradually lift your foot off the ground higher and higher. “Exhale to return the right foot to the floor, and repeat on the left side,” she instructs. You can do this daily with six reps per side.
Push and pull yourself on a chair with wheels.
Maybe don’t let your CEO see you trying this one because it may look like you’re slacking off—but in fact, you’re working out your brain and your bod at the same time. While you’re on a conference call, sit up straight with your shoulders pulled back and your hands on the desk in front of you. “Slowly rock your chair forward by tucking your hips underneath you, tightening up your lower abdomen, and squeezing your bum. Then relax your hips and press the chair slightly backward,” Chatzopoulos explains. “You can try picturing that your hips are a bucket full of water—you are keeping the water in the bucket as you rock forward, and then you are spilling the water out as you push back. Do not use your arm to push and pull you forward and backward.” Repeat until your call has ended.
Try a standing desk.
A no-brainer way to work your abs, according to McKay, is contrary to what you may think: Simply stand up. Then, practice balancing several times throughout the day. “By shifting your weight onto one foot and balancing on that foot, your core will be engaged, as will your shoulder blades as you stand tall,” she says. “Take turns balancing on one foot and then the other. Core muscles are all your muscles between your shoulders and hips.”