Abs seem to be “the” challenge area.
It certainly is mine.
It’s the area we all wish we would magically have “perfect”… but it’s one of the hardest to get “perfect.” And it’s the (reluctant) feature of today’s Work It Out.
In just a couple of weeks of eating clean I’ve seen more progress in my abs than I ever did when I was doing core work religiously (I owned that Ab Ripper X DVD). This is about 3 weeks of progression:
Back to the story. Calee clarified her request. She is looking to build core strength to help her running. That I can get behind. A strong core can make daily activities easier, reduces risk of injury, helps your posture, and protects your back. I lift heavy. My core gets sore from squats. Most people aren’t doing that… so here it is. The Top 5 Core Exercises, in my opinion (which is worth exactly what you paid for it 😉 ).
1. Side Plank with Leg Lift
Many of my favorite core moves are favorite because they strengthens engage mor than just the core. This move trims the waist by locking in the whole core AND engages the side of your butt (the gluteus medius).
To perform, lie on your left side, propping your upper body up on your left elbow and forearm. Your legs should be straight and feet stacked on top of each other. Raise your hips to the ceiling until your body forms a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders, keeping your core tight. Raise your right leg as high as you can, toe pointed forward. Remember to keep you leg straight and upper body still. Lower your top leg and repeat for one rep.
Do 10-15 reps on each side, 3 sets.
2. Bicycle Abs
Most of us know this one. What you may not know is that you’re probably doing it too fast. When you slow it down, you engage the core without letting other muscles take over.
Lie on your back with fingertips behind ears, legs in the air, and knees pulled toward chest. Contract your abs as you lift your shoulder blades off the ground. Straighten your right leg and rotate your upper body to the left, bringing the right elbow toward the opposite knee. Switch sides by straightening your left leg, bending your right leg, and bringing the left elbow to the right knee. Alternate sides in a slow pedaling motion.
Complete 25 full reps, 3 sets.
3. Isolation Crunches
These are hard. They should hurt. In a good way.
Lie on your back and place your feet on a bench (or seat of a chair) with your legs at a 90 degree angle and finger tips behind your ears. Crunch upward, lifting your shoulders as high as you can. Hold this position for a moment and slowly let it down. It should burn on the way down – like bicycle abs, doing these extremely slow is the key.
Do 10 reps, 3 sets.
4. Stability Ball Crunches
Most of you know about these. They are superior to regular crunches because they allow for a greater range of motion. If you are already doing stability ball crunches, try shaking it up by supersetting them with bicycles and isolation crunches. That should give you a good burn! *evil grin*
Place a stability ball on the lower back, with your feet comfortably touching the ground. If you feel unstable, move the ball further up your back. With your arms behind your ears, contract your abs and crunch forward. You don’t have to go too far, just until you feel your abs contracting. Holding the for 1-2 seconds at the top, allowing for complete isolation.
Do 25 reps, 3 sets.
This one can be extremely challenging for beginners as it requires a ton of core strength and balance. If it is too challenging, do these one leg at a time rathee than trying to raise both legs.
Lie flat on your back on the floor. Stretch your arms out behind your head, flex at the hips, and curl the abs to raise the legs and torso off the floor. Bring the hands to forward and up to meet the feet, keeping the arms and legs straight throughout the movement. Pause for a moment at the top and return back to the starting position
Do 15-20 reps, 3 sets.
Note: You can do ab work ALL DAY LONG, but if you eat poorly your abs won’t show unless you one lucky freak of nature. You should also know that those fitness models don’t walk around with perfect abs 365 days a year. They workout and diet hard before shoots and shows. Please, please don’t hold yourself to an impossible standard.
There are many other great core exercises out there (like planks), but I wanted to focus on moves you might not already be doing. Pull-ups, push-ups, pullovers are all other great moves that engage the abs as well as the upper body.
What is your favorite core exercise?
Did anyone try last week’s Double Your Derrière moves?