People are always searching for the best ab workouts whether that’s for aesthetics or health.
Having solid abs doesn’t just boost your confidence on the beach in the summer time, it can also help stabilise the spine which is just as, if not more important.
Now, let’s not kid ourselves here, we all have 6 pack abs, it’s just that for a lot of us they are hidden under a layer of fat. So it’s not a myth that the best ab workout in the world is getting leaner (training harder and eating better). That being said, having bigger and stronger abs will contribute to you seeing some visible results…
Here are some considerations and examples of how you should train your abs.
First thing’s first - it’s not all about crunches (yes they have their place when done well) as they work the rectus abdominis, aka the “six pack muscle”, however, to get that chiseled look you need to work the core as a whole.
The core is designed to transfer power from the upper to lower body and vice versa as well as stabilise AND mobilise the mid section which means a wide variety of exercises are needed to create strength through the core.
Anti extension exercises
These are exercises that force you to resist extension (arching) of the spine. The idea with these is to create as much tension as possible, not just through the abs but through the entire body.
Some good exercises to use to train this would be things like Dish Holds or Plank Variations.
Training the abs in this way sometimes gets a bad rap as it can sometimes be linked to exacerbating lower back pain, however, do anything enough and it is going to cause issues. One of the primary functions of the abs is to create flexion of the spine (think doing a sit up) so it needs to be trained. The problem is that this is usually one of the only ways people train the core and that can cause issues.
Top exercises here would be Sit Ups and Reverse Crunches.
Total Body core exercises
These are often forgotten. Everyone used to love a good old wood chop. Rotation and transferring power from lower to upper body like standing rotational med ball throws. These are great as they force you to decelerate and then accelerate weight using the core. Heavy carries are also a very challenging core exercise even though they may not feel as intense as others. Whether you use Rack Carries, Waiters Carries or just your standard Farmers Carries they force you to stay rigid through the core in the presence of movement.
This is another big part of core training. It involves you resisting a force that is trying to pull you into rotation. The idea is for you to brace as hard as possible (whilst breathing) and staying as symmetrical as possible throughout the set.
The best anti rotation exercises are Pallof Press/ Pallof Holds, Shoulder Taps and Bear Crawls.
Anti Lateral Flexion
Last but definitely not least, resisting lateral flexion (side bending) is big on the obliques, which is often an area people want to develop.
To develop strength here do Side Planks and Suitcase Carries.
When is the best time in a workout to do your core training?
Some core work should be done before to “activate” the core before your main session begins. Then the bulk of your core work at the end, this is when you can take exercises to fatigue. Train quality rather than quantity. As with everything, carrying out any of these exercises correctly will be much more effective than rushing or cheating.
When putting together your sessions pick 3 of the above principles and perform them as a circuit. There is no use just doing anti extension exercises for example, or just doing total body rotational exercises.
Train the core as a whole.