Do you want to feel the burn? Then here are five ab exercises that will make a difference
We all do it… picturing ourselves next summer on the beach, in our favourite swimwear, and looking lean and defined. A big part of that mental image is having abs of steel. But how do get them? Here’s five ab exercises that will make a difference.
I’m sure you’ve tried the latest 30-day abs challenge and got nowhere (these are more than useless).
Then you’ve probably heard the phrase ‘abs are made in the kitchen’. Which makes you think ‘why bother with training at all?’. I don’t agree with the abs are made in the kitchen maxim.
Yes, you need a relatively low body fat percentage to see them, but you still need to train them to make them pop. I like the phrase ‘abs are made in the gym, and revealed in the kitchen’.
So what are the best exercises to do then? 100s of sit ups a day? Hours upon hours of planks? Not at all.
Here I’m going to show you five exercises that you can do for your abs, that won’t bore you to tears.
Ab exercises that will make a difference
Long lever plank
If you want to target those rectus abdominis muscles at the front of your belly, a regular plank is not a fantastic option. Don’t get me wrong, the plank is a top-notch exercis. But if your aim is to see those washboard abs we need to tweak it somewhat.
How do we do that? We make the lever a little longer. We shimmy our feet backward which puts more pressure on our abs.
It has to be said, this is an advanced exercise. Until you’ve mastered the regular plank, I wouldn’t attempt the long lever variation.
How to do the long lever plank
· Lie with your chest on the floor
· Assume the regular plank position; supported on your toes and elbows, with elbows below the shoulders
· Ensure that there is a straight line between your feet and head, without your hips raised too high or sagging
· Then take steps back, keeping the straight position, until your eyes become level with your elbows. Your elbows will be out in front of your head
· Imagine you are bringing your belly button up towards your chest. This will engage the abs
Begin with 3 sets of 20 seconds
The hollow hold is simple but extremely effective. The burn you feel on your abs is amazing, in a sadistic sort of way.
As well as that, the regular version requires no equipment. Just lie on the ground and off you go.
If this version becomes too simple, using a few dumbbells you can start to do presses and flyes at the same time. This puts even more pressure on your core.
How to do the hollow hold
· Lie with your back on the floor
· Tuck in your knees towards your chest, then raise your shoulders slightly off the floor to engage the abs
· Extend your legs and arms out from the body so that your feet are about a foot off the floor and hands behind the head
· Ensure your low back keeps pressed against the floor
Begin with 3 sets of 20 seconds
Hanging leg raises
I like the leg raise variation from the floor, but if you want to step it up a gear then hanging leg raises are the way to go. That is if you have the grip strength to actually hang.
Again, this might be for the more advanced trainee, as hanging can be quite challenging. If the limiting factor is hanging, perhaps do some farmer carries for a few weeks to build up grip strength.
How to do hanging leg raises
· Hang from a chin-up bar with your arms and legs extended (without your feet touching the ground). Use a step if needed
· Raise your knees up until they reach the height of your hips. Your knees should have a 90 degree angle
· Return slowly to the start position and repeat
Begin with 3 sets of 12 reps
When we think of training our core we automatically think of the six-pack, or rectus abdominis muscles. Yet it encapsulates a lot more than that.
One area we can neglect is our obliques. I use farmer carries, suitcase carries and side planks, but my favourite is the paloff press.
This super simple exercise targets almost every muscle around our midsection and requires just a resistance band or cable machine. It can be done kneeling, half kneeling or standing.
I recommend beginning with the standing variation.
How to do the standing Paloff press (with a band)
· Wrap a resistance band around an upright pole or squat rack
· Grab the other end of the band with both hands and stand with your side facing the pole. Ensure you are standing far enough away that there is some tension on the band
· Put your feet shoulder-width apart and a slight bend in the knees, press the band out from the body until your elbows lockout
· Your hands should be in line with just below your chest
· Return to the start position and repeat.
Begin with 2 sets of 10 reps on each side
Finally, I’ve gone for an exercise that targets that dreaded lower portion of the abs. This is an area people love to work on.
The reverse crunch, although it doesn’t require any equipment, can be a tricky one to master. Using the abs to curl can be challenging for people.
If the abs aren’t strong enough (or your technique is poor), you may start to feel this one in your lower back. Perhaps build-up to this exercise.
How to do the reverse crunch
· Lie on a mat pushed up against a pole, squat rack or anything sturdy that you can grab ahold of
· With your back on the mat, reach back and grab the pole or rack
· Raise your knees until your feet are nearly touching your backside
· Raise your knees towards your chest so that your hips raise off the ground. Your back should curl. Your knees should nearly be touching your chest
· Hold for a second and return to the start position without letting your feet touch the floor.
· Repeat for required number of reps
Begin with 2 sets of 12 reps
James Mc Dowell is a personal trainer that helps women to look and feel better so they become strong and confident. He does this through his in-person and online programs. You can find out more at jamesmcdowell.ie