Creating Stability: Developing Ab Strength with just 5 Movements

Even though it’s fall and a lot of athletes are starting bulk or trying to maintain their current size or weight, it’s important that we don’t neglect strengthening our foundation. It’s all relevant and by only focusing on the lifts or skills we’re already good at, we lull ourselves into a false sense of security and become more vulnerable to injuries.

A major part of this foundation lies in our core: the hips, our abs, and our back. These muscles stabilize and prevent unwanted movement in our trunks during more demanding lifts, like a deadlift, squat, any kind of clean, or during yoga and pilates. Building a strong core will help improve your balance and protect you from preventable injuries.

There’s two types of ab workouts and I’m going to focus on both this week: Ab strength and ab endurance. These are two different things and you should work both to be stronger and have a better chance of getting that six-pack.

A Word from Someone who had a “6-pack” Before

I would like to point out that just because you might have a six-pack to show off doesn’t mean that you have a strong, stable core. That just means you’re one of the lucky ones that got their body fat low enough to have “abs”.

Realistically, you should train your abs like you would any other muscle: consistently and with intention. Ab workouts are no different than arm or leg workout. No amount of miracle workouts or plans will achieve the long-term results you’re really looking for. You should exert the same effort and consistency on your abs as you would and other body part, and soon enough, you’ll see results.

After doing CrossFit and weightlifting for 4 years, I can say with certainty that my core was not strong before and, while I still have work to do, my stability in my lifts improved immensely. It’s going to improve even more as I continue to lift and put in the bitch work of developing my low back, hips, and abdominal muscles.

Alright, Let’s get to work.

This workout is made for developing the strength of the abs and force the muscle to grow. A lot of these movements you’re already familiar with, but focus on flexing your abs and pulling the stomach into the belly button for these 10-15 reps. Grab some kind of weight if you want a little bit of a challenge. You’ll rest 60 seconds between each set and complete one movement before moving onto the next.

Also, there will be no stupid crunches, only full ROM (range of motion) sit ups.

Equipment:

  • Yoga Mat, Pilates Mat, or Towel (if you’re on a hard surface)
  • Medicine Ball (only if you want to add weight)
The work:

First and foremost, always make sure you warm up!!!! Need a dynamic warm up? Click Here (link not active yet).

The Russian Twist: A staple in many ab workouts but still valuable. 3 Sets- 10-12 reps each

Start in a seated position with your legs in front of you. Bend your knees until they’re at a 90 degree angle, your feet should still be on the floor.

Lean back until you feel your abs engaged. Keep your back straight. If you feel your low back start to engage and become tight, come up an inch or two.

You can do the Russian twists here, simply rotating your upper body to each side (over and back is one-rep), or you can lift your feet off the floor for more of challenge. If that’s still not enough, add the medicine ball or add a book for weight.

NOTE: Only your Upper body should be twisting, there should be no shifting of the hips or lower body. Slow down to control the movement and don’t just fling yourself side to side. This doesn’t do anything for you.

Laying Leg Raise: another staple, but still important 3 sets – 12-15 reps each

On your mat or towel, lay down flat on your back with your legs straight and pull your low back to the floor by flexing your abs (Typically when we lay down, our lower back will elevate slightly because the human body is naturally lazy).

Holding this position, you can make this easier by sliding your hands in a triangle underneath your hips to elevate your butt slightly or you can leave your hands out to the side for a challenge.

Lift both your legs very slightly off the ground (you should feel your abs engage to stabilize), and then lift your legs up by flexing your lower abs (your low back should not come off the floor and your shouldn’t be using your thighs or legs to perform this movement). Lower your legs slowly to hover off the mat or you can tap the mat before repeating the movement.

If you want to add more resistance, grab the medicine ball, a yoga ball, or other object that you can place between your feet and repeat the same movement.

Note: Only your lower body should be moving. Your upper body should stay rigid.

Table-Top Bridges: a twist on a traditional movement. 3 Sets 12-15 Reps

This movement focuses more on the hips, but still uses the abs to pull the back and butt up into the fully extended position. Go slowly with these, especially if you have weaker or tight hips.

Start in a seated position and bend the knees until the legs are sitting at 90 degrees. Place your arms behind you, as if you’re going to do a crab walk. You can place your hands however is comfortable, but you’ll probably feel some stretch in the shoulders.

Flex the abs, butt, and low back. Push your hips up until they come into an extended position and are flat (you should look like a human table here). In this extended position, you should feel your low back and butt engage to keep you in this position and you should feel your abs flex to pull everything up and maintain that position.

Lower your hips back down to floor and repeat.

You can add resistance to this by placing the med ball, a dumbbell, or other household item in your hip crease and then performing this movement. If you have small resistance bands, you can position one of those just above the knee as well. Go slow and with intention.

Ab Bicycle (Starting to get into the side body!) 3 sets, 24 reps total (12 each side)

Start by laying on the floor, lower back in contact with the floor. Place your hands behind you head and straighten your legs. From there, twist your left side and draw in your right leg until they meet in the middle (or as close as possible). Lower back to the starting position and repeat on the other side (right side, left leg)

This will start to activate the obliques and engage your whole abdominal wall.

To make this harder, you can slow the movement down, hover your feet about 4-6 inches off the ground, or add ankle weights.

Side Jackknife (This is a good one!) 3 sets, 10 reps each side.

Side jackknife can be a great exercise for strengthening the side body, and is challenging even without adding weights. The sides often get neglected but they’re still important to strengthen because the provide support and stability as well.

Side Jacknife is pretty simple. Lay down on your right side (make sure you’re laying in a straight line on your side, engage your abs) and use your right arm for support by placing it directly beneath your shoulder in an L-shape (see video for clarification). Place your left hand behind your head.

Keeping your left leg straight, lift your leg up and crunch the upper body in until it’s as close to your left leg as possible. You should feel the muscle contract. Lower your leg, lower your upper body and repeat again. Once you’ve done your 10 reps, switch sides and repeat on the right side.

If you need to make this harder, using ankle weights and or holding the crunch for 2 seconds at the top will help.

Incorporating this workout into your routine will help strengthen your abs so that you can be stronger and faster. Next time, I’ll post a workout for abdominal endurance, which will help promote stability for lifting, balancing, and overall longevity.

Happy Monday everyone!

Les

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