Although most people know they want six-pack abs, fewer know what their core really is.
Your abs are part of your core, but only the very front, most external portion of your torso. Realizing this, it should become apparent why only working your rectus abdominis (the muscles we recognize as a six-pack) won’t get you the results you want for performance or appearance.
Doing crunches or sit-ups alone to get a gorgeous torso is like working solely your biceps to get great arms.
In order to look great and perform well, you have to work your way the full 360 degrees around your middle, plus hit the layers underneath. Hard on the outside with a gooey center only sounds good when discussing dessert.
Before I give you some tips on achieving a toned, strong core I want to address the importance from a performance and injury-prevention standpoint.
Why your arms need your core:
Would you position a piece of heavy machinery atop a stability ball filled with jelly? Of course not; that would be ridiculous. Imagine the mess that would lead to. For the same reason, you can’t lift something heavy with a weak core, no matter how strong your arms are. Actually, you could, you’d just hurt yourself in the process.
Why your legs need your core:
Would you like to go on a run with a stability ball filled with jelly? Of course not; that would be ridiculous, as well as really uncomfortable.
See where I’m going with this? You can’t perform well with mush in the middle. I’ve never had a great idea that began with a stability ball filled with jelly – though I imagine it would be comfortable to sit on.
While I could go on with science and examples for all the “whys” out there, I imagine you clicked on this link to get to the how, so here goes.
Warning: This is an amazing core routine, but the exercises only work when done properly. I’ve linked to what I feel are good explanations, but please reach out for additional clarification.
- Work your back. The main purpose of your core is to support your spine, so start there and the rest of your body will thank you. My favorite ways to do this are with hip raises (50+), opposite arm and leg extensions (3 sets of 10 each side), and deadlifts (30+). Work toward single leg deadlifts for an added balance challenge that will demand even more from your core. Bonus – your glutes and hamstrings will also benefit from each of these.
- Work your internal and external obliques, along with your lats with the plank and row. This move will get results even starting from a modified side plank on your knees. Do 3 sets of 15 each side.
- Work your hip flexors, obliques, transverse abdominals (bonus pelvis and leg work to boot) with the pilates single leg circle. Take the leg in each direction 10x, then straight up and down 10x, then switch sides. Work up to 2 sets.
- Get your entire core working together alternating spider planks with plank jacks. Do 10 (5 each side) of the spiders, take a 30 second rest, then get back in plank and jack your feet out and in 10 times. Do 3-5 sets.
- Burn out with a weighted cross crunch. Lie on your back with one leg extended and the other bent at the knee with the foot on the floor to keep your low back in proper position; opposite arm of extended leg extended over your head with a small dumbbell. As you contract at your core, raise the extended leg and cross past it’s knee with the opposite extended arm and weight so you are crossing with a bit of a rotation. Do 2 sets of 15 each side.
Here’s a video so you can concisely see how each exercise is done: https://youtu.be/vVEHl7CE-5Y
While it’s hard for me to stop at just these exercises since there are so many great ones out there, these are some of the most efficient and safest, so I’m going to call it. Having said that, no core toning is going to cut through fat the way a comprehensive nutrition and exercise plan will. In order to reach your goal, these exercises should be utilized in conjunction with other cardiovascular and strengthening workouts, and a proper diet.