I often get asked about my favourite core exercises and which ones are the best to make your Abdominal muscles pop... Give these ones a try and let me know how you get on!
REMEMBER: Ab/core exercises are all about QUALITY and not QUANTITY!! If you are doing 2000 crunches in 30 seconds all you are likely to do is put your back out. Think 'Gymnast' when performing each of the following exercises - slow and controlled.
BARBELL HIP THRUST
While this exercise doesn't target your abs, per se, it does target other core muscles like the glutes and hips. This move -- a favorite of Bret Contreras, CSCS, aka “The Glute Guy” -- is one of the best exercises for challenging and strengthening your backside. HOW TO DO IT: Start seated on the ground with a bench behind you and a loaded barbell over your hips. Your upper back and shoulders should be on the bench. Drive through your feet and extend your hips by contracting your glutes, raising the bar until your body forms a straight line from shoulders to knees. Return to the starting position and repeat.
BARBELL FLOOR WIPER
Grab a barbell loaded with one 45-pound plate on each side. Get on your back and hold the bar directly over your chest with straight arms. Keep your feet together and legs straight as you bring both feet up to the left plate then return them to the floor. Next, bring your legs up to the right plate and return them to the floor.
Holding a plank -- especially on your forearms -- is probably a piece of cake by now. Instead of hanging out statically for five minutes, change the length of the lever to challenge your core. HOW TO DO IT: Assume a forearm-plank position on a slick floor with a towel or slides under your toes. Slide your body forward and back slightly by hinging at your elbows and shoulders, maintaining a rigid body line from head to heels throughout the move.
CROSS-CLIMBER WITH FEET ON SWISS BALL
Keeping your hips stable and body aligned gets a whole lot tougher when the ground can roll. Throw in a ball and you add even more instability -- that’s the idea behind many of the moves on this list, including this one. HOW TO DO IT: Start in push-up position, but with your shins on a Swiss ball. Your body should form a straight line from ankles to head. Without rounding your lower back, lift your left leg off the ball and bring that knee toward your right elbow. Return to start, then bring your right knee up to your left elbow.
HOW TO DO IT: Lie faceup on a bench and grab the bench next to your ears so that your elbows are bent and your upper arms are next to your head. Your hands are there simply for support -- don’t pull with them or you’ll wrench your neck. Use your core to roll up onto your shoulders until your body is straight and perpendicular to the ground --basically, you’re stacked on top of your shoulders. From here, slowly lower your body using your core, maintaining a straight body line. Work toward bringing your body down until it’s hovering just above the bench. Then bring it back up to the start and lower slowly again.
Planks too easy? Try them suspended upside down. The front lever isn’t just incredibly impressive-looking, it’s even harder than it looks and will challenge your core, back and motivation as you train to perfect it. Good luck! HOW TO DO IT: Grab a pull-up bar with an overhand, shoulder-width grip. From the hanging position, use your shoulders, back and core to pull your body -- totally straight -- from the perpendicular position up to a position parallel to the floor. If you can reach this position, hold it for as long as you can. To work your way up to this position, start with your knees tucked in: You’re hanging from the bar, arms straight, but with your body tucked in a ball and your back parallel to the floor.
HANGING LEG RAISE
Lots of people crank out leg raises, but they’re not getting the full benefit. By concentrating on keeping your torso perpendicular to the floor, you’ll add difficulty to this move and reap greater benefits. HOW TO DO IT: Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your torso perpendicular to the ground and don’t lean back as you pull your knees toward your chest by bending your hips. To make it more difficult, keep your legs straight as you raise them and work toward raising your straight legs all the way up to the bar.
INCLINE REVERSE CRUNCH
HOW TO DO IT: Lie face up on an incline bench with your hips lower than your head, your body forming a straight line from head to heels. Grab the bar behind your head for support or grasp the sides of the bench. Lift your knees toward your chest. Slowly lower your feet toward the floor and repeat.
You probably won’t be able to pull off a triple flip, the iron cross or all those pommel horse spin moves anytime soon, so the L-sit is the closest you’re probably going to get to an Olympic gymnastics move. It won’t be easy though. HOW TO DO IT: Set two benches parallel to one another a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Get between the benches and hold yourself up with your arms so that your body forms an L shape. Your torso should be perpendicular to the floor, your arms straight at your sides and your legs out in front of you, parallel to the floor. Hold this position.
L-sits too easy? Change the length of the lever by performing pull-ups from a hanging L-sit position for a move that combines isometrics (you’re holding those legs up) with a constantly shifting stability challenge (from the pull-ups). HOW TO DO IT: Hang from a pull-up bar with an overhand grip, hands wider than shoulder-width apart. Keep your torso perpendicular to the ground and don’t lean back as you lift your legs up without bending your knees until they’re parallel to the floor. Your body will form an L shape. While holding this position, perform pull-ups, pulling your chest up to the bar while pulling your shoulders back and down. Return to the bottom of the pull-up, but keep your legs in the L shape.
Even though this exercise has it's roots in yoga, don't let that fool you as to it's intensity. You’ll be taxing your core throughout by holding a weight plate in front of your chest. HOW TO DO IT: Get a 10- or 25-pound weight plate and hold it in front of your chest as you come to the top of a modified boat pose -- seated, leaning back, legs in a tabletop, weight in front of your chest. Hold this position as you breathe in and out through your nose, keeping your abs contracted and preventing your lower back from curving. Take a break for 30 seconds and catch your breath. Repeat.
Concentrate on pressing your lower back into the floor at the beginning of each rep by pinning your navel to your spine. This will engage your pelvic floor throughout the exercise. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your back with your legs straight. Hold your arms straight above your head, gripping a medicine ball so your elbows are by your ears. Without bending your elbows or knees, contract your abdominal muscles, fold your body up by lifting your arms and legs off the floor and stretch your arms toward your toes. Keep your back straight. Pause, then return to the starting position.
Squats tax your core already. Moving the weight over your head makes maintaining your proper squat form even more difficult. The weight is further away, so it’s harder to control. What keeps that form correct? Your core! HOW TO DO IT: Stand with your feet slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, toes turned out slightly. Grab a barbell with an overhand grip, hands shoulder-width apart, and raise it overhead so your shoulders are roughly in line with your heels. Keep your arms straight and directly overhead as you push your hips back to squat down until your thighs are at least parallel to the floor. Press back up to standing.
Awesome name for a double-duty move. Keeping your hips level as you row each dumbbell to your shoulder will tax your core while you train your lats. HOW TO DO IT: Assume a push-up position while holding a dumbbell in each hand directly below your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Maintaining this body line, bend your elbows until your chest is between the dumbbells. Press back to start, then bend one elbow to row the weight up next to your rib cage. Return it to the floor, do another push up and repeat.
SIDE PLANK AND CABLE ROW
As with the renegade row, this move engages your lats while you stabilize your core. HOW TO DO IT: Lie on your left side in a side-plank position facing a low cable pulley. Prop yourself up on your left elbow with feet stacked and body forming a straight line from head to heels. Row the handle of the cable machine with your right arm until your hand is in line with your torso. Return the cable to start and repeat. Then switch sides and repeat.
Let me know how you get on with these in the comments, and don't forget to follow me on Instagram - @mrlukeboyden
Ab-off with 'The Haye-Maker' David Haye!