With the summer just around the corner, people are getting more and more self-conscious about their bodies, and what’s interesting about abs is that both men and women want them equally. Health-wise, that is amazing, because in order to get your six-pack to show, you need to eat right and to strengthen the muscles of your core. Stay with me and find out the right way to work your abdominals through different types of sit-up exercises and more.
Flex and rotate
The biggest issue I have with traditional sit-ups is that it only works one function of the abdominal muscles – spinal flexion. Even within that aspect there are much better options to hit the top part of our abs more efficiently, and with no risk of injuring our lower back.
- Physio ball crunches – This exercise can do wonders for your abs’ top region. It extends our spine at the bottom of the movement, which allows for a stronger ab contraction, but at the same time keeps our back in contact with the surface through the whole range of movement, thus eliminating chances of injuring it. I love to do this one as a warm-up, or burn-out (when my muscles are their weakest).
- Bench V tucks – This one actually allows our rectus abdominis muscle to contract simultaneously from both sides. Starting position is sitting on a bench, your legs straight out and your torso leaned back. From there, you pull your chest forward, and at the same time tuck your knees to the chest. Find a quality weight bench, to avoid rocking side to side and crank them up!
- Dip station pelvic tucks – This one I picked up at AthleanX. It’s a great exercise for your upper abs, but for your seratus anterior as well. I don’t mean to startle you with Latin, but this tiny muscle is important because it shows at a bit higher fat percentage than the rest of our abs, and it gives us a more complete look of our core. This exercise is quite simple, you get into the position for a dip, but instead of going down, you go up, and try to pull your pelvis to your chest. Give it a go, I promise you won’t regret it. For more info …check the video below.
Reverse the direction and get your lover abs to pop
It’s impossible to hit lower abs, exclusively, but there is something we can do to target them a bit better. For all these exercises, it’s important to remember one thing, your lower abs are attached to your pelvis, not legs, so don’t stop at 90⁰angle – that way you are only working your hip flexors, and they are usually strong enough already.
- Reverse sit-ups (leg raises) – This one we already covered, but you know how much I like it. Not only is it a great to hit lower abs, but it does so in a safe way.
- Mixed grip side leg raises – This exercise is of a more difficult kind. Your starting position would be hanging from a bar with a mixed grip; your body shouldn’t be looking forward but to the side. From there, you turn to the left and lift your legs to the bar, then return and do the same to the right. If this version is too difficult, you can always flex your knees, and make the exercise easier.
- Assisted leg throws – For this bad boy you are going to need a partner. It looks fairly similar to the reverse situp, but in this version, a partner stands right above your face, and just as you lift your legs, they push them back down to the ground. That way, you emphasize the eccentric contraction and work on explosive power of our abs in the process. Be sure that your lower back is glued to the floor during the exercises, and that your partner is going easy at first to avoid injuries.
Stability above all
Now, we have covered the obvious: top, bottom and the sides. But what most of us don’t know or choose to ignore is that abs are meant primarily to prevent overextension of the spine, not to flex it. So, we need to help them do what they do best, by doing some of these not-so-hot exercises. Believe me, stability of your core is not something you want to lack, so do yourself a favor and add these to your core routine.
- Plank variations – We all know how useful plank is, and how it can do wonders for your core. What I feel we don’t appreciate enough about it is its versatility. If it gets too easy or boring, you can easily add plates, do it on one hand or one leg, or even incorporate additional equipment like TRX bands, or a physio ball.
- Step-outs – This one can look silly, but until you have tried it, you’ll never know how demanding it really is. How we do it is we grab a cable or a band with straight arms, pull it to the midline of our body (like with woodchoppers), and just step out against the line of pull. Now, everything that is holding us from twisting back is our ab strength. Keep in mind that our abs are made not only to allow rotation, but also to prevent it. If that wasn’t the case, we would spin like a dreidel every time somebody shouldered us on the street.
- Side stars – We always tend to look down on exercises found in Jane Fonda-inspired videos, but this one is a killer. Just go to a side plank position, and rest against the palm of your hand, instead of your elbow. Now lift your top leg to the side. Hold that position for a minute if you can. It sounds simple enough, but if you lack strength in your obliques, glutes, lower back or your rectus abdominis, you are going to have a hard time staying up.
Tying it all together:
As you can see, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to abs. Try to do a bit of traditional top to bottom work first, and then change the angle for the development of the V tape we all desire. In the end, add some stability work to tie it all up, and always remember that the abs are made in the gym, but revealed in the kitchen, so get your diet in check in order to see the results of your hard work. Stay strong and see you soon!