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 you should be adding to your ab training routine, immediately.
YOU SHOULD 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.
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.
YOU SHOULD 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.
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.
YOU SHOULD 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.
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.
YOU SHOULD LIFT HEAVY
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.
4,5,6,7, and 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.