Three Hard ‘CORE’ Abdominal Exercise Variations

When I mention training abs, what comes to mind?

Like majority of people, you are probably thinking  ‘Crunches’ & ‘Sit-ups‘ because these are best exercises for a tight mid-section right?

Wrong!

These are probably the least effective abdominal exercises.

Why is that so?

Well for a start, they barely touch the surface of your abdominals.

Secondly, they neglect the deeper muscles — the ones responsible for helping you obtain a flat, self supporting mid section.

Plus, doing endless crunches makes you look like,  well….. like a fish out of water flailing around on the ground.Yep that could be you, my aquatic friend!

But now it’s time to evolve & emerge from the water and understand how to train the abdominals properly.
Keep in mind if you want to see your abs, this will be a direct correlation to your body fat levels.

For the gentlemen, this generally means going below 12% body fat:

For women you usually start seeing definition at around the 16% mark:

Nevertheless, training Abs is still critical to strengthen the CORE.

As the abdominals contribute greatly to making up the CORE , I’m sure you have heard the term coined ‘CORE’ thrown around a lot.

The reason for its hype is because the CORE is instrumental in providing the body with the pillars of strength & stability.

It involves the region around your pelvis, hips included, abdominal & lower back areas .

Think of it as the human made lifting belt.

So the CORE isn’t just abs, but the abs do serve a strong purpose including:

  • Act as stabilisers to protect the entire spine
  • Protect internal organs from heavy demands
  • Improves Posture- in addition with strengthening glutes & stretching out hip flexor muscles
  • Allows you to breathe deeply helping you progress on all lifts
  • Improved Athletic Performance
  • Makes you look good naked – well developed abs (in addition to low levels of body fat) looks pretty damn sexy you must admit

However, before I go into some ABsolute killer movements,I need you to first understand the structure & function of the abs.I promise I will keep it short & sweet.

Here we go!

So there are four main muscle groups that make up the abdominals.

These include:

The TRANSVERSUS ABDOMINIS (TA), which is the deepest layer of muscle in your belly. It runs horizontally around your midsection (picture it like a corset). Its main role is to stabilise the trunk & compress the abs. It is what helps reduce the diameter of your belly so you can look good in your swimwear.

Next is the RECTUS ABDOMINIS (RA). This muscle group has the characteristic bumps that represent the six-pack. It’s only function is flexion! This means it only helps you bend forward & doesn’t compress your tummy. It is the one that often gets trained the most & can lead to muscle imbalances.

Next in command are your INTERNAL OBLIQUES. Located just inside the hip bones, its role is similar to the TA in which is compresses the abs. It also rotates & turns the trunk with help from other muscles.

And lastly you have the EXTERNAL OBLIQUES. These are on each side of your Rectus Abdominis (the six pack muscles). They allow your trunk to flex & twist .

Together these muscles form the abdominals, as pictured below:

So to train the abs effectively,you would want to ensure you train all four abdominal muscle groups: Transverse Abdominis, Rectus Abdominis, Internal & External Obliques.

I want to show you with pictures how to hit abs (without doing crunches) using some CORE movements.

To break it down, I will select a handful of movements I believe to be quite beneficial  and categorise them according to their movement pattern. This involves using some fancy terms:
Anti-Extension – purpose is to resist extension at the spine
Anti-Rotation – purpose is to resist rotation at the lumbar spine
Anti-Lateral-Flexion – purpose is to resist lateral flexion (sideways bending) at the spine.

But never mind the technical terms too much. Just pay attention to where each movement belongs & how you can perform them.

ANTI-EXTENSION MOVEMENTS

Deadbug
Preparation
Lay down on back with hands extended above you towards ceiling
Bring your feet, knees & hips up to 90 degrees

Execution
Tighten your abs and press your lower back into the floor
Take a deep breath in
Initiate by extending one leg, straightening the knee & hip to bring the just above the ground while also straightening one arm
Stay tight & return the working leg to the starting position
Slowly return your arm and leg to the starting position
Repeat on the opposite side, alternating until the set is complete

2-4 sets 8-12 reps (1-3 times a week)

Overhead Med Ball Slams

Preparation
Hold a medicine ball with both hands and stand with your feet at shoulder width apart

Execution
Initiate by raising the ball above your head and fully extending your body
Slam the ball into the ground directly in front of you as hard as you can
Receive the ball with both hands on the bounce and repeat the movement

3-5 sets 15-20 reps (1-3 times a week)

 

ANTI-ROTATION MOVEMENTS

Preparation
Place a barbell in a landmine slot
Get into a half-kneeling stance in front of the barbell
Hold the barbell at shoulder height in the hand nearest your back leg

Execution
Press up at about 45 degrees & extend arm
Lower the barbell back down under control

3-4 sets, 8-10 reps, (1-2 times a week)

 

Preparation
Get into a half-kneeling stance in front of cable station
Front knee at 90 degrees & on ball of back foot
Grip handle with same hand as back leg

Execution
Pull from your armpit, keeping arm close to body & shoulders square forward
Your elbow should be pointed straight down at the bottom
Repeat desired amount of repetitions & switch sides & repeat

3-4 sets, 10-15 reps (1-2 times a week)

 

Preparation
Place the the rope on the cable machine & lower it to the lowest notch
Kneel on your right knee with your right side facing the cable machine
Grab the top of the rope/bar with your left hand and the bottom of it with your right hand (palms facing down)

Execution
Keep your upper body straight but rotate your arms so that your right arm up and out in front of you and your left arm rotates to the left
Repeat on other side for desired reps

2-4 sets, 8-10 reps (1-3 times a week)
ANTI-LATERAL FLEXION MOVEMENTS

Preparation
Begin by standing between implements (Dumbbells, short bars, farmers handles)

Execution
Gripping the handles, lift them up by driving through your heels, keeping your back straight and your head up.
Walk taking short, quick steps (heel to toes) & don’t forget to breathe.
Move for a given distance, typically 60-120m

3-6 sets 60-120m (1-3 times a week)

Preparation
Starting in the tall kneeling position with two dumbbells held straight overhead

Execution
Transition to the half kneeling position & then the standing position
Alternate legs each repetition
Make sure to keep abs & glutes engaged, rib cage down, and as little motion in the torso as possible

2-4 sets, 5-10 reps (1-3 times a week)

Preparation
Lock your feet under the 45 degree back/hip extension setup
Extend your torso straight out with your hips stacked

Execution
Holding a weighted plate to your chest, simply press the plate out in front of you until your arms are fully extended, and then return back to starting position

2-3 sets, 6-8 reps (1-2 times a week)

 

 

 

So putting it all together, Right! So choose one exercise & and add it to the end of one of your workouts. Each workout you do rotate between an anti-extension, anti-rotation & anti-lateral flexion exercise. That means going through at least one movement from each of the three categories once per week.

Now that you know how to create a bulletproof core, go out & make that core work!
If you would like to know more about training for a bulletproof body, or think you may know someone who is seeking the right support, please email me: dave@thebodyconsultants.com

I would love to help set you or them in the right direction.

 

Signing off ,

Dave ‘Abs of Steel” Buck