This is without a doubt my number 1, best ab training tip! This 1 tip helped me see abdominal definition because it actually activated my abdominal muscles during exercises. One would think that any ab exercise works the abdominal muscles. BUT, it doesn’t. It takes a trick like this to actually engage the abs best. If the core muscles aren’t properly engaged other muscles like the hip flexors and/or momentum can take over.

I’m going to explain this training tip and provide photos and “engagement pre-exercises” to help you learn it. Then, I will also touch on a training technique I’ve shared before that you can combine with this to make your ab workouts next level effective!

It’s so simple, yet the majority of women are not doing it.
PELVIC TILT: to properly engage the core muscles, you’ll first need to perform a pelvic tilt. Lay on the floor with your knees bent so that your feet are flat on the ground. In this position, you’ll notice the small of your back is off the floor. We all have this lordotic curve in our lower backs that prevents the back from touching the ground when laying down. The goal of the pelvic tilt is to eliminate any space between our backs and the ground.
BELLY BUTTON TO SPINE: you can achieve a pelvic tilt by pulling your belly button to your spine. Imagine you have a string attached to your belly button that is being pulled to your back.
Hold that position for a few seconds and then release. As you release, you’ll notice your pelvis rotates forward and the lordotic curve in your back returns. Repeat the contraction a few times until you get the hang of it!
The combination of the pelvic tilt and belly button to back gets you in proper positioning so the core muscles are maximially activated. This is critical in increasing the effectiveness of ab/core exercises because you can isolate and properly contract the correct muscles.
These are 2 pre-exercises I do to simply test my core engagement and remind myself to get into proper postitioning before I start my ab movements.
Pretend as though you are wearing a belt. Think about where the belt buckle would be. For the sake of better understanding this test, I like to imagine that this belt buckle has a beam of light shining straight out. If you’re flat on the floor, this beam of light would point perpendicular to you or directly up to the ceiling.
To best engage your core, you’re going to want to tilt your pelvis so that beam of light coming from the belt buckle points at a 45-ish degree angle back behind your head. In order to achieve this, you’ll rotate your pelvis, tucking your tailbone. Think of pushing your belly button to your pine as you feel your abdominal and core muscles engage.
Here’s a photo example to further demonstrate this…
pelvic tilt for ab engagement
This is my second pre-exercise test. Now that you’re pelvis is tilted and your belly button is pushing back, lets double check the core engagement.
It sounds silly but we are going to brace for a punch to test this. Let’s pretend we are in a sit up position for example. You’re lying on your back on the ground. Your knees are bent so that your feet are flat on the floor. The pelvis is already tilted and tucked. Now, pretend as though someone is going to punch you in the gut and brace for it.
Notice how engaged the abdominal muscles get? If you want to test this, give yourself a gently poke in the belly. You should feel your muscles tight and engaged.
Yes?? Great! Now get onto your ab workout…
You’ve heard me talk about Time Under Tension aka TUT before. I’ll breifly explain in this post but if you want a more elaborate explanation, read THIS blog pos.
TUT refers to the amount of time you are actually working your muscles, which is different from the total workout time. For example, if you complete 3 sets of 15 crunches and rest for 1 minute in between each set…
Workout – Example 1
1st set: 15 crunches (~20 seconds)
1 min rest
2nd set: 15 crunches (~20 seconds)
1 min rest
3rd set: 15 crunches (~20 seconds)
1 min rest
Total Workout Time: 4 minutes
Total Time Under Tension: 1 minute
Compare that to a workout where you complete 1 set of 1 minute of crunches
Workout – Example 2
1st set: 1 min crunches
Total Workout Time: 1 minute
Total Time Under Tension: 1 minute
The TUT is the same in both examples but the total workout time is 1/4 in the second example. The effectiveness was the same even though one workout was significantly shorter. Likely, the second workout was actually more challenging.
Personally, I’m a HUGE fan of workouts that focus more on time under tension. In fact, the brand new Ab Plan I put together for this challenge has workouts that are all 10 minutes or less but I actually find they are the most effective, challenging ab workouts I’ve put together.
If you have ab goals, I totally suggest THIS plan by the way!
I hope this post helped you maximize your core engagement. Keep up with those 2 pre-exercise tests and I’m sure you will notice an increased effectiveness in your ab training.
Don’t forget to check out the new Ab Plan and add it into the daily workouts 4x per week!


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