I hate doing ab exercises.
Like, I really hate them.
And yes, I am the Hardcore Abs class teacher at Barry’s Bootcamp Boston, however, when it comes to my own training I rarely take the time to do traditional ab exercises.
I love training hard but I don’t always have much time and crunches seem like a time suck when I am in a hurry. They also take the away from all my favorite lifts!
I am the girl who likes to get in, get out and get done with my training so the idea of 100 crunches, 50 pike-ups, a million russian twists and 200 sit-ups makes me want to hurl.
However, just like training my biceps more often helped me with weighted chin-ups, I understand that specifically training my core has many benefits.
In order for me to not get bored or distracted, ab exercises must:
- provide a physical challenge in a short amount of time (not 10 minutes of crunches)
- make me use my brain and my body
- challenge me to focus on breathing
- kill to birds with one stone (I.E. mobility and core, strength and flexibility, brain strain and strength)
It’s true that front squats, 1.5 RDLs (shown below), offset squats, and even chin-ups do work the core…but let’s be honest, I should probably take some time to do more core-focused exercises, especially on the days I am not going to lift heavy.
Recently I have been incorporating more core exercises into my active rest days.
I want to put more of an emphasis on abs but not tax my body too much as my bikini competition approaches.
I am going to walk you through six of my go-to core exercises.
I choose these when I want to focus on my core for several reasons:
- they are fun
- they are challenging
- they feel athletic
- they test my brain and my body
Dead bugs are a personal favorite because they force me to slow down.
If you haven’t met me, you must know I am go-go-go all the time.
Making sure to spend a moment focusing on my breath, glueing my lower back to the ground and controlling the movement is good for me.
Another way to challenge yourself is to pause and exhale at the bottom position.
Added bonus? I actually feel my abs burn with this one.
To make it more difficult and ingrain the correct movement pattern, add a block like my client Carol is doing in the video below. These are one of her favorite exercises.
Cues to remember:
- “Try and break a pencil with your low back.” You should press that low back into the floor enough that a pencil would be crushed. Keep it grounded.
- Reach long and far behind you (overhead).
- Start with your arms reaching upward; my client Carol always wants to start with her arms above her head. Make sure to get in a solid start position and then begin; this way you won’t rush the movement.
- Flex your feet; drive your heel toward the wall in front of you.
Oh boy I love this one! There’s front crawling, side crawling, backward crawling…. all the crawls!
Crawling challenges the brain because you must be mindful of lifting opposite hand and opposite foot. It gets tricky to move opposite limbs when you don’t regularly do this!
The best piece of advice I can give you is to keep your knees low as you crawl. Hover them over the ground and make sure you move your opposite arm and foot.
I do these because I feel them in my abs and my quads. I used to train at an awesome gym in Chicago and we would often do timed 1 and 2 minute crawling drills, play crawling tag and even crawl ant-style with a block against our foreheads.
(I don’t have a video of me partner crawling but here is an example of a partner crawling drill):
At Rebell Conditioning in Chicago we used yoga blocks in-between our foreheads.
3. Roll-to-elbow drill
This drill is great because like crawling, it works the brain and the core.
You want to move upward in a diagonal motion towards the corner of the room.
- take your rib cage to your hip.
- reach up for the cieling
- pretend you have a cup of water in your hand that you do not want to spill
- exhale as you lift up
This drill is actually step one of the Turkish Get Up.
These require coordination and mobility in the shoulders and hips.
There are several modifications of this movement. They do not have to be done weighted. For mobility purposes, simply grooving this movement pattern without a weight is highly effective.
Cues for the seated windmill:
- eyes on the weigh the entire time
- sit your glutes to your heal
- make a pillar with your arm
Cues for the standing windmill:
- hips back to the corner of the room
- toes point to the opposite corner
- keep your eyes on the weight
- create a tall pillar from your top arm to your bottom arm (straight line)
- do not arch your back
- start by striving to reach down to the inside of your knee. If mobility/flexibility permits, reach lower y tracing a line down the inside of your leg.
5. Reverse Crunch
The reverse crunch is one of my favorites due to the difficulty factor.
It is important to know that I only began doing these a year ago.
They take loads of control and strength.
Step 1: knees over eyebrows
Step 2: knees to ceiling
Step 3: heels to glutes
Step 4: lower down slowly
Step 5: right back up!
6. Hanging leg raises
These are an advanced movement but they are all encompassing: these are a sneaky little way to train grip strength at the same time as your abs.
Can’t get your toes to the bar yet? No problem!
Hanging knee raises are just as effective.
Beginners should try to do a bent leg hold for 5 to 10 seconds or simple knee raises for 5 to 10 reps.
My client Kati does three, straight-leg raises to the half way point then a 10 second hold in the bent leg position.
I try and do these at least once per week to focus on grip strength and core training.
Training your abs does not need to be boring and does not need to take 20 minutes of hundreds of reps.
For all of the above exercises you can do three sets of 5 to 10 reps in a circuit.
Crawling can be done for time, or for steps.
The biggest things to remember are:
- control the movements slowly– don’t rush!
- focus on breathing
- brace your abs
- focus on the novel movement pattern
If you have questions, let me know firstname.lastname@example.org!
If you want to try a fun windmill circuit, see below!