If I asked you what your most challenging body part is, I bet I could guess before you answered. It is your abs, right? Many women (and a lot of men) have problems with their abs. From what I see every day at the gym it is not for a lack of trying. I see so many people doing crunch after crunch and wondering why they do not see better results.
I have two reasons. First, is the old but true adage: you can’t out train a bad diet. No amount of ab work is going to give you a six pack if you continue to have a layer of fat over the muscle. So the first line of defense is a fat burning plan that includes clean eating, balanced resistance training and cardio.
The second reason is the standard crunch lacks the ability to give you a solid core. You should really be focusing on all of your core muscles (abdominals, erector spinae, etc) to have a strong and balanced midsection. The best exercises to accomplish this are exercises that work your core as a whole and move in multiple angles and directions, kind of like we do in real life.
So I want to share my favorite core exercises with you. These exercises will hit your core from different areas and provide a well balanced workout.
- Plank: Place your forearms on the floor, shoulder width apart, and balance on your forearms and toes. Keep your body in a straight line from your feet to your neck. Hold this position for 60 seconds. If you are just starting you may need to take breaks until you can hold for 60 seconds continuously. Try 15 seconds, rest, 15 seconds, rest and repeat for a total of 60 seconds. Eventually you will get stronger and be able to hold the pose for 60 seconds straight.
- Bicycle: Lie on your back, hands behind your head and knees bent at a 45 degree angle. Use your abs to lift your head and shoulders, while twisting your left elbow toward your right knee. Pause for a beat, then in a slow and controlled motion twist to the other side. Try to avoid tugging at your head or letting your shoulders drop. Remember to breath and let your abs do the work. Repeat for 30 reps.
- Cable Wood Chopper: Using a rope handle attachment, set the cable pulley of a cable machine at mid body height. Grab the rope with both hands and position yourself about 3 feet away from the weight stack. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart with slight bend in your knees, holding the rope to your right side at torso level. Pull the rope in a horizontal motion across your body, turning your shoulders so that you are now holding the rope in the same position on the left side of your body. Reverse the sequence slowly and with control to the starting position. Make sure to follow the rope with your eyes and keep your head and shoulders aligned. This is a gym exercise, but you can use a medicine ball to do the same movements. Repeat for 10-12 reps on each side.
- Russian Twist: On the floor, hold a kettle bell or medicine ball in a seated, reclining position with feet off the ground. Counter rotate the upper and lower body while moving the weight from side to side. Repeat 10-12 times each side.
- Exercise Ball Pass: Lie face up on the floor, with an exercise ball in your hands behind your head. Bring your legs and arms up off the floor to the midsection of your body, passing the ball from your hands to your ankles, squeezing your legs slightly inward to hold it. Slowly and with control, lower your legs and arms back to the floor. Perform the same movement, this time passing the ball back to your hands and return to starting position. Repeat for 10-15 reps.
- Bird Dog: Kneel on your hands and knees, with your knees directly under your hips and your hands directly under your shoulders. Slowly extend your left arm out in front of you while at the same time extending your right leg behind you. Pause and return to starting position. Repeat 12-15 times each side.
Try these out and tell me which one is your new favorite core exercise.