Abs, abs glorious abs!
Whether your goal is a rippling 6 pack or just a strong core that can withstand anything thrown at it, these exercises can help you get it.
Before getting into the exercises, lets look at what your core is. Knowing what constitutes your core will help get the best out of the exercises that follow.
I’m going to keep this simple, it’s everything between your knees and shoulders. Don’t believe me? Do a short, 10 sec plank with good technique and high intensity and tell me which muscles are being used. Quads, hamstrings, glutes, abdominals, lats. All being used to stabilise and hold that perfect plank.
The abdominal muscles themselves act as a bracing system for the torso, helping to create and, more importantly, resist movement. Endless sets of crunches just won’t get the job done…
Your spine is capable of a number of movements, flexion (forward bending), extension (backwards bending), lateral flexion (side bending) and rotation (twisting). Your abs make these movements happen, but more importantly, they resist them from happening. Think about carrying a heavy bag in one hand, your ribcage doesn’t just fall over to the loaded side, your abs on the opposite side engage and hold you in an upright position.
Your rectus abdominis, your 6 pack muscle (or chick pack, or if you have the genetics – 8 pack) attaches to your pelvis and your ribs, effectively tying the 2 together and not letting your top half fall away backwards whilst controlling your rib and hip position.
Plank: Lying face down with the elbows under the shoulders and toes tucked under, squeeze your glutes, quads and lats (imagine pulling your shoulder blades down towards your butt), then tighten your abs and lift your hips off the floor to make a straight line from heels, through your hips, to your shoulders. Your hips should be slightly tucked as if you are trying to pull your pelvis towards your ribs.
Extended plank: As with the plank but with your elbows forward of your shoulders, more inline with your face. The extended position increases lever length meaning your abs have to work harder to maintain the slight posterior tilt you create.
TRX fall out: The first of 2 “moving” plank options, on your knees in front of the TRX with the straps around 6-12 inches off the floor depending on strength levels. Your body should be in a straight line from knees through your hips to your shoulders, again with a slight tilt to your hips (pulling your pelvis towards your ribs). Under control, fall forward whilst holding the TRX handles, holding the straight body position, going as far as you can under control before pulling back to the start position. Don’t break at the hips!
Ab wheel roll out: A more advanced version of the fallout, using the ab wheel which increases instability and puts you closer to the ground.
Leg lowers. When it comes to anti extension strength, failure happens either at the rib end (ribs flare) or at the hips (hips sag). I like the leg lowering exercise to help develop some control at the hips. Lying on your back, holding on to something solid, roll your hips back until you have a slight backward tilt of your hips, brace your abs, and lift your legs off the floor to around 45-60 degrees, lower them under control, maintaining your low back position throughout. Bend your knees and limit your range of movement if you have trouble holding your hip/ low back position, gradually increase range as you get stronger.
Later this week I’ll post part 2, covering the anti rotation and anti lateral flexion exercises.