Forget about hips—it’s Shakira’s abs that don’t lie. But in case you didn’t believe them, the singer recently posted an Instagram video showing off one deceptively difficult move that proves there’s some major effort that goes into her strong core.
Working with celebrity trainer Anna Kaiser before her El Dorado world tour, Shakira demoed an ultra-effective upgrade to an obliques crunch. It’s called a corkscrew obliques pulse, and it’s a classic at Kaiser’s AKT In Motion studios in NYC.
Take a look at how it’s done in Shakira’s Instagram post:
Unlike a traditional obliques crunch, for which you lie on the floor and crunch your torso side to side, the exercise is done while sitting on a box with the hips twisted so that you’re sitting more toward one side of your butt. This prevents the hip flexors from taking over the work your core is supposed to be doing, explains Jonathan Tylicki, AKT master trainer and the AKT on Demandcontent director. Plus, it’s great for avoiding strain on your neck and back, says Jessica Hall, C.P.T., personal trainer and instructor at Hot Mamas in Denver and a former trainer at AKT. In the video, Shakira is touching her obliques as she performs the exercises to make sure the muscles are engaged.
The exercise not only effectively works your obliques (the muscles that run along your sides and help with twisting movements), but also the hard-to-target transverse abdominis, or TVA, which wraps around your sides and spine. The TVA is the deepest of the core muscles, and it’s also notoriously one of the most underworked, says Hall—but it shouldn’t be. “Your TVA is important because it is the inner corset of muscle that helps support your entire core, [and it] helps stabilize and protect your back and lumbar spine,” says Tylicki.
To try it yourself, “lie back on an elevated surface like a Pilates box, chair, ottoman, or couch (something that allows your hips and upper back to rest),” says Tylicki. “Gently twist your hips to one side, keeping your knees squeezed together. [Put your] hands behind your head and exhale as you lift your upper back off the box. Holding here, pulse up, exhaling each time as you pull your naval in deeper.” Drawing your navel in is important for engaging the TVA, rather than pushing your abs out, says Hall.
Aim to do 30 reps on each side for two to three sets each, suggests Tylicki. Don’t rush through them, though. “Like Anna is having Shakira perform this exercise in the video, this move should be done slowly and with control,” says Hall. Make sure you’re not pulling on your head and neck, too, says Tylicki.
Of course, there’s more to a body like Shakira’s than obliques exercises, and crunches alone won’t get you visible abs (not that we’re suggesting you should have visible abs!) If you’d like your body to look a certain way, keep in mind that your genetics, nutrition, fitness background, life circumstances, and a whole bunch of other factors affect your body composition. For more on this, read Why It’s So Hard—and Sometimes Impossible—to Get Six-Pack Abs.
It’s also important not to only focus on one muscle group. “Your body will only work as a well-oiled machine if everything is done in balance,” says Hall. Case in point: Shakira is also working on other muscles to get ready to hit the stage every night. Here she is burning out her lower bodywith a wall-sit incorporating barre-inspired pulses, under Kaiser’s watchful eye.
And for a boost of cardio, the singer also showed off a Rocky-style late night swim.
Now that’s dedication.