By Lee Boyce, CPT Men's Fitness
When it comes to training the abs, we have to remember that they’re indirectly involved in basically every compound or standing movement we do, to varying degrees. Knowing this, only relying on situps and crunches to train the mid-section properly just isn't going to cut it (no pun intended). Here are the 8 exercises and 4 training methods you should be adding to your ab training routine, immediately.
Method 1 – Plank More
Don’t just hold a plank for 3 minutes. Anyone can do that if they work up to it. Add an element to your plank to make it just as challenging as it was when you started doing them. Make your core stabilize loads under less bases of support.
Overlooked Exercise 1: Plate Transfer Plank
Remember to avoid “twisting” as soon as you move one arm off the ground. Use weights no heavier than 5 lbs each. Keep the stomach tight and focus on getting all the plates back to the starting point (like you see in the video) before taking a break. Rest for 5 seconds between rounds, and perform 3 rounds. That’s one set.
Method 2 – Focus on Trunk Flexion
Exercises like crunches and sit ups promote poor posture that we put ourselves into all day long. It’s important to think of keeping our ribcage in the same place when we do exercises that involve an abdominal “crunching” motion.
Overlooked Exercise 2: Hanging Leg Raises
Hang off a pull up bar with a grip wider than shoulder width. Keep the legs close to one another, and bring the knees up as close to elbow level as possible. This exercise is made more effective if you keep a bent elbow position (like a halfway-chin up) while performing the movement. Return to the starting position in a slow and controlled fashion – this is the part of the rep where the abs really work hard, so keep it slow. Focus on sets of 6-8 reps.
Method 3 – Carry More
Loaded carries (farmers walk, fireman’s carries, etc) are awesome exercises to promote core strength and stability. When we make the load one sided however, the game changes…
Overlooked Exercise 3: Suitcase Deadlift
Align yourself beside the loaded barbell, and assume starting deadlift position. Reach down and apply a firm grip around the centre of the bar. Lift the bar by driving through the heels and maintaining a flat back. Make sure you don’t lean to the side of the barbell and let it “pull you down”. Hold tall at the top for a 2 second count, and work to feel your abs and obliques going nuts to keep you upright. Focus on sets of 8 to 10 reps per side.
Method 4 – Lift Big
As I mentioned earlier, neglecting large, compound movements will, as a by-product, neglect the core. Being confined to a seat or a bench will not challenge the abdominals to pull their own weight. Knowing this, it would be a smart move to ditch the machines and let the large, barbell movements regain their place as pinnacle in your strength training program.
Overlooked Exercises 4, 5, 6, 7, 8: Squat, Deadlift, Overhead Squat, Pull Ups and Standing Press
All of these exercises have some things in common. Firstly, they’re all vertical movements – they involve movement from down low to up high, or vice versa. This means the abs and back have to work hard to deal with stabilizing the spine. Second, these exercises will result in really poor performances if your core isn’t strong as a bull. Do them, and they’ll do wonders for getting your strength up.
Never Forget: It's About Diet
If you’re looking for the cosmetic appeal, you can do all the core strength and isolation training in the world – it won’t affect what your stomach looks like. That’s where your diet comes into play. Eat clean meals that are high in protein, and low in carbs. Keep sugars to a minimum and avoid sweet drinks. Controlling these factors will get rid of the bloat and lower the presence of a “spare tire”. Soon your 6 pack will look as good as it feels. Use all these tricks of the trade to revamp your core training starting today.