Let’s face it…there’s a million different core abs workout and routines out there, and each one promises to have the right stuff to give you a six-pack, get you toned, remove those love handles, and fulfill any other elaborate plans you may have for your midsection. With so many choices, it can be difficult to decide which is best, or perhaps more importantly, which achieves your goals with the least amount of effort.
To simplify things a bit, I’m going to break abdominal training down into 3 basic categories: smart training, effective cardio, and proper nutrition. By the time you finish reading this series of three articles, you’ll be equipped with 1) a quick and easy way to design your own core abs workout routine using a simple set of rules (this article); 2) an explanation of how to incorporate both long and slow fat-burning cardio and quick and fast metabolism-boosting cardio into your program and 3) five simple nutritional rules to make your body a fat-burning machine.
Time to go to ab school. Since this isn’t anatomy class, I won’t waste your time naming the muscles and giving you strange Latin terms like “rectus”. We’ll go straight into the good stuff – how to design your own waist-slimming routine. This type of routine works best when you’re able to devote an entire workout to core training alone. Your ab exercises should fall into a five basic categories:
The start of your routine needs to get the ab muscles “firing” in conjunction with the rest of your body. Basically, this means your warm-up exercise or exercises need to use the full body and center around a waist hinging action, such as:
Body Weight Squats: start in standing position, then “sit down” until your thighs are parallel to the floor, keeping your center of gravity back behind you.
Lunge with Overhead Push: lunge forward holding a weight, and as you stand out of the lunge, press the weight overhead.
Inchworm Crawl: with open space in front of you, start in a fully extended push-up position, walk the feet towards the hands as close as possible, then walk the hands away from the feet.
Complete 1 set of 10-20 reps for each of these exercises, then move on to…
Stability exercises should be body weight only exercises that fatigue the abs with a high amount of reps and a low amount of resistance. These would include crunches, flutter kicks, reverse crunches, twists and anything else that doesn’t require a weight or apparatus to accomplish. Choose 2 or 3 of these exercises, complete 15-20 reps for each, and after you’ve got a “burn” feeling in the abs, progress to the third section…
STABILITY WITH RESISTANCE:
Now that you’ve completed the stability exercises, you’re going to add a weight, like a plate, dumbbell, medicine ball, or just plain gravity. Exercise examples would be an incline bench crunch, a weighted crunch, a weighted straight leg crunch or a medicine ball twist crunch (i.e. Russian Twists). Since your resistance is going up, your rep count will go down. Complete 10-15 reps for these exercises, and do them at a slower pace than the stability exercises…now your abs should be wide awake.
The difficulty of the exercises, in terms of movement complexity, is going to be the greatest with your dynamic core exercises. These should be done in a standing position, and should include a twisting, flexing, or rotating component that forces you to work against resistance. Examples of dynamic core exercises include:
Cable torso twists: hold a shoulder level handle attached to a cable apparatus at arm’s length, and pull the cable across your body using the torso, not the shoulders.
Woodchoppers: begin with a medicine ball held over head, then “chop” down, bending at the knees and back, so that the ball endsbetween your feet. These can also be performed diagonally.
Around the World: holding a weight in your hands with the arms straight, draw giant circles with a weight or medicine ball, bending and extending at the knees and back as you drop from the high point to the low point of the circle.
Your heart rate will be the highest during this part of the workout and your reps should be low: 8-10 for each exercise is fine. Finally, for the last part of your routine…
Here is the trickiest part of your routine. You need to find an exercise that throws you off balance. Here’s one example: get into the pushup position and twist toward the ceiling with one arm only, opening your body in one direction. Then reverse and twist in the other direction, keeping both legs planted. Another example is a crawl crunch, where you assume a crawl position, extend both arm and leg on the same side, then crunch your elbow and knee together. As little as 5-10 repetitions will be more than enough for each exercise in the unbalance phase.
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