If you work out right when you wake up, you'll be done before your body even realizes what's going on. Early morning abdominal exercises means you get them out of the way for the day, so unforeseen conflicts won't keep you from the mat later. It'll also help keep you on track when you're first starting an exercise program.
So, once you get up and out of bed, start moving. Precede your morning ab exercises with three to five minutes of warming up, such as marching in place, active side stretching or even yoga sun salutations. You don't need a lot more time to complete some quality moves that will strengthen your abdomen.
1. Reclined Abdominal Hollowing
Finish warming up your abs with this deceptively simple move. You'll activate some of the deepest muscles in your midsection to help with posture and stability in every day activity.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back. Extend your arms up. Draw your belly in toward your spine as you press your low back to the floor. Hold for two to three counts. Repeat three to five times.
Add more challenge by holding the position with both feet lifted 3 to 4 inches off of the floor. Repeat by lifting the other foot. Do this three to five more times.
Avoid actively tilting your pelvis. The hollowing movement requires you feel like you're contracting the right and left sides of your rib cage toward each other.
Plank position is another exercise that is an isometric, or a held, contraction. You'll benefit by activating your deep abdominal muscles as well as the shoulders, hips and lower back. Being strong in plank also allows you to do other abdominal moves better.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie flat on your stomach with your hands planted right under the creases of your armpits and your elbows against your ribs and pointed to the ceiling. Extend your legs behind you. Draw your belly button in toward your spine as you lift your torso up off the floor to brace on your palms and very tops of the knees, where they attach to your thighs.
Stay here if your feel challenged, or lift your knees to create a rigid line from your heels to your shoulders for a more advanced variation. Hold either variation for 20 seconds. Work up to longer holds over the course of a few weeks, aiming for 60 to 90 seconds as your final goal.
The plank is sometimes performed on your forearms, rather than your palms. Either variation is beneficial, so choose the one that works best for you.
3. Modified Side Plank
Work the side abdominal muscles with this simple hold. Eventually, you can work up to stacked feet — but keep your knee down for support when you're first starting out.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your right side with your feet, hips and shoulders stacked. Place your left forearm on the floor. Activate your abdomen by drawing your belly tightly in, like you were fielding a punch, and prop up onto your left forearm and left knee.
Keep your neck strong so your head stays in line with your spine. Stack your hips and shoulders. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds at first. Increase the intensity by holding the upward position longer. Release to the mat to finish the exercise.
4. Dead Bug
This move might seem like it requires a lot of coordination first thing in the morning, but once you get the hang of it, you'll fall into a rhythm. Remember that your head stays in contact with the floor the whole time and your torso is stable, so just the limbs move.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your legs lifted so the knees are balanced over the hips, shins are parallel to the floor and your arms are extended straight up to the ceiling over your chest.
Draw your right arm back by your right ear as you extend your left leg straight to hover several inches above the floor. Keep your left arm straight over your chest and your right knee bent.
Return the right arm and leg to their original position and extend the left arm and right leg to complete one repetition. Move deliberately and with control as you alternate the sides for a total of 10 to 15 repetitions.
Stretch out your abs with this gentle move. Save it for the end of your workout, but feel free to add it between moves too as it just feels good in the morning.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your belly with your legs extended. Place your hands in the creases of your armpits and your elbows against your ribs, with the points toward the ceiling. Press your hips into the mat as you lift your head, neck and shoulders up off the mat.
Use your back and abs to lift up; your hands should stay light and are for balance only. Draw your shoulders from your ears and pull the blades together down your back. Hold the pose for about five deep inhales and exhales. If you prefer to time the move, aim for 15 to 30 seconds. Slowly lower your chest back to the mat.