If there’s one target area that a lot of my readers are concerned about, it’s definitely the abs and core!
And hey, who doesn’t want a tight, flat tummy right? It looks good in everything, and at the end of the day, you feel confident and amazing from your jeans to your bikini.
If you think training the abs and core is simply about sit ups and crunches… Girlfriend think again!
Today, I want to introduce you to a few moves that I really enjoy that can help you to get your abs tight, and more importantly, your core strong.
Before I delve into my favorite 6 exercises to strengthen your core and build your abs, let’s explore exactly how the abs are structured. And understand WHY it is indeed more than just doing sit ups.
Meet Your Abdominals – A Quick Anatomy Lesson
Surprise! Now, in case you didn’t know, your abdominal muscle are actually a collection of 4 layers.
- Rectus Abdominis – these are the outer most layers of your abs, and what is commonly known as your “six pack”. When you get lean, this is what everyone is striving for because they POP OUT! This layer of your abs is responsible for motions where you bend over or forward.
- External Obliques – these are located along the sides of your waist/abs. When you get lean, you can slightly see this band of muscle that integrates into your six pack. The external obliques are responsible for motions that bend your waist to the side and rotates your torso.
- Internal Obliques – this layer of abs is located just below the external obliques. They run in the opposite direction and are also responsible for the duties of twisting the torso and lateral side bends.
- Transverse Abdominis – this is the deepest layer of the abs, so deep you can’t even “feel” them with your hands. Instead, you feel them in a very deep way whenever you do exercises that force you to stabilize your body. Think about planks, or even big moves like push ups. Tightening your abs activates them as well. They are a major muscle in stabilizing your body – and are the muscles folks are talking about when they say “core”.
How to Best Work Them – 6 Exercises to Strengthen Your Core and Build Your Abs
Now that you know what these muscles ARE, let’s talk about some ways to step outside of the box and work them.
I’ll be honest with you, I normally don’t do direct ab work in my workout programming. Nor do I give clients “ab workout days”. Instead, a lot of the work we do requires them to deeply activate all 4 layers of abdominal muscles.
We also do a ton of work that dynamically moves them through space. This hits up balance, stability, and more which when executed properly, are some of the best moves you can do for your abs.
Now, before we get into these exercises, I have to say one thing.
Your abs are made in the kitchen! And no amount of ab work will make up for a poor diet.
The following exercises are some of my favorite moves that you can begin to incorporate into your training right now!
The best part is that not only do they hit the abs, but you get to hit some other areas of the body as well. Let’s rock and roll.
(Videos and Descriptions Courtesy Bodybuilding.com)
- Stand with your feet close together. Keeping your legs straight, stretch down and put your hands on the floor directly in front of you. This will be your starting position.
- Begin by walking your hands forward slowly, alternating your left and your right. As you do so, bend only at the hip, keeping your legs straight.
- Keep going until your body is parallel to the ground in a pushup position.
- Now, keep your hands in place and slowly take short steps with your feet, moving only a few inches at a time.
- Continue walking until your feet are by hour hands, keeping your legs straight as you do so.
- Secure your feet and lay back on the floor. Your knees should be bent. Hold a weight with both hands to your chest. This will be your starting position.
- Initiate the movement by flexing the hips and spine to raise your torso up from the ground.
- As you move up, press the weight up so that it is above your head at the top of the movement.
- Return the weight to your chest as you reverse the sit-up motion, ensuring not to go all the way down to the floor.
Landmine 180 Barbell Twist
- Position a bar into a landmine or securely anchor it in a corner. Load the bar to an appropriate weight.
- Raise the bar from the floor, taking it to shoulder height with both hands with your arms extended in front of you. Adopt a wide stance. This will be your starting position.
- Perform the movement by rotating the trunk and hips as you swing the weight all the way down to one side. Keep your arms extended throughout the exercise.
- Reverse the motion to swing the weight all the way to the opposite side.
- Continue alternating the movement until the set is complete.
Spider Crawl – Stationary
- Begin in a prone position on the floor. Support your weight on your hands and toes, with your feet together and your body straight. Your arms should be bent to 90 degrees. This will be your starting position.
- Initiate the movement by raising one foot off of the ground. Externally rotate the leg and bring the knee toward your elbow, as far forward as possible.
- Return this leg to the starting position and repeat on the opposite side.
Pallof Press With Rotation
- Connect a standard handle to a tower, and position the cable to shoulder height.
- With your side to the cable, grab the handle with one hand and step away from the tower. You should be approximately armâ€™s length away from the pulley, with the tension of the weight on the cable. Align outstretched arm with cable.
- With your feet positioned hip-width apart, pull the cable into your chest and grab the handle with your other hand. Both hands should be on the handle at this time.
- Facing forward, press the cable away from your chest. You core should be tight and engaged.
- Keeping your hips straight, twist your torso away from the pulley until you get a full quarter rotation.
- Maintain your rigid stance and straight arms. Return to the neutral position in a slow and controlled manner. Your arms should be extended in front of you.
- With the side tension still engaging your core, bring your hands to your chest and immediately press outward to a fully extended position. This constitutes one rep.
- Repeat to failure.
- Then, reposition and repeat the same series of movements on the opposite side.
Tip: The closer you keep your feet together, the greater the core activation. A wide base puts the pressure on your legs instead of your core.
Bear Crawl Shoulder Tap
- Bend down so that your hands are on the ground and your feet hip-distance a part. Your shoulders should be stacked over your wrists, your knees bent to 90 degrees, your back flat, and abs engaged. This will be your starting position.
- Quickly bring one hand up to tap the opposite-side shoulder, placing that hand back on the floor before repeating to the opposite side. Concurrently your body will slightly shift from one side to the other to better maintain balance. Try to avoid your hips rocking from side to side.
- Continue for the recommended number of repetitions.
In Conclusion… Here’s What You Need to Do Next
A lot of these moves may be a bit advanced for some of you. And that’s fine! I want you to simply try them, and definitely modify them if needed.
You don’t have to do ALL OF THEM. Pick a few that you think you want to try, and incorperate them into your workout this week.
The ones that are difficult for you, don’t shy away from them!
Make note of that, and then make it your goal to MASTER them. As I say to my clients, with great challenge comes great change. The body wants to adapt, and presenting new moves that it isn’t used to is the perfect way to coax your body to transform.
I’d love to hear your thoughts after you try these!
Post your experiences in the comments below. Let me know how it’s going for you.