Everyone wants a tight core, some may even want to have ‘abs of steel‘ but the story is the same, everyone wants a rocksolid core and to be honest everyone needs that core strength. Without it you are nothing, you need a good core to do every day exercises, everything from getting off the sofa, to reaching up and getting something down off a shelf. Just ask someone without core strength if they struggle with anything?
We need our core for everything, it’s not about just having Abs that show for Instagram, if you don’t have the strength behind it then you are just all show and no go!
Below are 8 of some of the best exercises for that Rocksolid Core. I’ve not put them in an order to say which one is the best, as everyone can react differently to each exercise. So next time you decide to work on that core in the gym then give these exercises a go.
1. Hanging Leg Raise Or Knee Raise
There are many reasons to like leg raise variations, one of them is the way you can start off easy and work your way up to the full advanced crazy stuff you see on YouTube. Start doing bent knee raises in the Roman chair or ab straps to focus on the lower core, work up to straight leg raises, and then move to a hanging bar. By the time you can do full straight-leg toes-to-bar raises, your entire core will have strength for days.
That’s not the only way to progress, though. You can also increase the degree of difficulty by holding a medicine ball between your knees or ankles, which allows you to train in a lower rep range. No matter the variation, get your legs as high as possible on each rep without using momentum to swing them up.
2. Kneeling Cable Crunch
I love this exercise and is one of my personal favourites. I love the way you can add resistance to this exercise, I enjoy that you can add a twist to this exercise to work your obliques. But quite often I see people perform this exercise wrong.
First off, it’s easy to sit back while doing this move, letting your hip flexors do much of the work. Secondly, if you keep a flat back, it limits the degree to which you can hit the upper abdominals—your back has to round! Think of crunching those upper abs, just like a crunch. And finally, your hands should stay in the same relative position next to your head for the duration of the set. Letting them drift away on the eccentric and then pulling them back again beside your head brings a lot of shoulder and upper body into the move.
3. Decline-Bench Crunch With Medicine Ball
Decline-bench crunches amp up the challenge by increasing the range of motion over standard crunches, and you can dial up (or down) the degree of difficulty by adjusting the angle of the bench. Adding a medicine ball or weight plate against your chest adds a further level of resistance. This also allows you to manipulate where you want to fail: low, medium, or high reps.
But you can still go wrong. Because your feet are hooked, it’s all too easy to pull through your thighs. Nor do you want to go all the way down to rest on the bench between reps; stay well off it. If you’re not feeling a wicked burn, drop all the weight, put your hands on your belly, and really focus on the contraction at a slower pace. You can also introduce a cross-body movement, angling your elbow to the opposite-side thigh, to better engage the obliques.
4. Decline Russian Twist With Medicine Ball
This harder version of the Russian twist works the obliques while requiring the upper abs to contract isometrically. To recruit the obliques, you either need lateral flexion (bending to your side), trunk rotation (twisting), or sucking in your belly. Doing your twists works the trunk-rotation function of the muscle, so really focus on the contraction. Try to get a little crunch on either side after the rotation to up the ante.
Your biggest danger here is letting your arms wave across your body and out of line with your torso. Turn at the waist, not your shoulders. In addition, avoid pulling through your thighs (hip flexors) on the decline bench here as well.
5. Ab-Wheel Roll-Out
Some suggest that using an Ab wheel may beat out hanging leg raises, sit-ups, and reverse crunches for the top muscle activator. This movement capitalises on the concept of anti-extension perfectly; as you roll out, your trunk must actively fire (eccentric motion) to maintain a neutral spine without collapsing under your body weight and gravity. Watch that you don’t risk your back by allowing it to dip into extension at the bottom, though!
The plank is an isometric hold that really focuses on the core. This movement is a mid-tier activator of both the rectus abdominis, obliques and also a great transverse abdominis move.
This is on the list because of how easy it is to manipulate the degree of difficulty. If a regular plank is too easy for you, lift an arm, or a leg—or an arm and a leg. Put your feet into a TRX and give that a whirl. Still too easy? Take your feet out, and put your forearms in. Each one of these progressions leads to a greater training stimulus to the abs.
7. Reverse Crunches
If you want to sculpt your lower abs, it’s time to mix up your classic crunch. Reverse crunches hone in on the bottom portion of your rectus abdominus to take your four pack to a six pack. Plus, they train your tranverse abdominis, your natural internal girdle, more than traditional crunches do. But to reap these rewards, you need to know how to do reverse crunches properly. That means not letting your hands, arms, or, even worse, momentum, do the work.
During a Deadlift, the rectus abdominis and the obliques are both hard at work. The rectus abdominis is a pair of long muscles that extend the length of the torso. The obliques extend along either side of the torso.
During a deadlift, both of these muscle groups work as stabilizers, which is a muscle that contracts during a movement to create tension and counter the action of another muscle that may exert force on a joint or several joints.
In the case of the deadlift, the rectus abdominis and obliques counteract the pull of the of the erector spinae — a deep muscle system of the back — on the vertebral column, preventing hyper extension of the spine. By keep your core tight during a deadlift, you can maximise the benefit of a deadlift.
Just remember that if you want to see those Abs, that six pack of yours then you need to make sure you strip away that bodyfat percentage, if you are constantly consuming more calories than you need each day then you’ll put on weight and those abs won’t pop!
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