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Is the Penguin Exercise Finally Going to Give Me the Chiseled Core of My Dreams?

Snatch those waists, kings

Whoever is out here naming ab exercises is pretty sadistic. Why would you name an ab exercise that feels like sending your waist through a meat grinder after an adorable aquatic bird? Penguins don’t deserve that kind of negative association! Nevertheless, the ab exercise called “penguins” might be worth adding to your routine, depending on your goals. Will the penguin exercise chisel your core, though, or should you just stick to the less-cute sounding exercises like inchworms, instead? 

The penguin exercise gets its name from the fact that it kind of makes you look as though you’re waddling like a penguin, despite being reclined on the floor. To perform the move, you lay on your back with your knees bent and feet planted on the floor. Then, keeping your arms and hands straight, use your core to lift your shoulders up, tapping your left hand to your outer left foot and then your right hand to your outer right foot without lowering your shoulders or head. This counts as one rep. 

In order to keep your head up and your arms moving, your core is doing a ton of work. Your oblique muscles will be the primary ones used in the exercise, and for people who want well-rounded ab definition, working the obliques is essential. Further building your core strength will also help you perform any number of exercises, as well as contribute to your overall health and stability

But that doesn’t mean you have to add the penguin exercise to your routine. In fact, if your goal is to keep your waist as tiny as possible, penguins may add bulk to your waist by building muscle there. Of course, this is only a minor aesthetic concern — building muscle is never inherently a bad thing. For some, too, building muscle in the obliques enhances the whole snatched-waist look.  

If you want to add the penguin to your routine, you have options. PopSugar recommends doing it for 30 seconds at a time, while the Washingtonian calls for four sets of 25 reps. You also have the option of adding small hand weights for further resistance. 

On top of that, there are a handful of variations of the move. Using dumbbells, you can perform the penguin exercise standing by dipping one shoulder down at a time, then lifting it back up using your oblique muscles. With both exercises, you’ll need to be mindful of your neck and shoulders to avoid injury, which is especially true if you’re using any significant amount of added weight. 

Ultimately, though, if you like punishing yourself, penguin exercises aren’t a bad way to do it. Despite penguin birds having perhaps the least defined waists of the entire species, the penguin exercise might help define yours.