4 Exercises For a Rock Solid Core
To preface, I want to say that while I realize that "core exercises" are super popular (because everyone wants to get rid of that belly, right?), doing these exercises alone won't cut inches off the waistline; if you've ever heard the saying, "Abs are made in the kitchen, not the gym," it's true. And while there is no single exercise that burns belly fat, any exercise can help burn overall fat, assuming you are also including a healthy diet.
With that said, there are some really awesome core exercises that I like to use to develop real core strength and stability. These exercises will not only build up those coveted "six pack" muscles, but also train them to properly function. Below are 4 movements that you can use to create a rock-solid core that would make Batman jealous.
Make Sure You Can Do This First
I know, another article talking about planks. Hear me out though; it's important to know the benefits of this simple but foundational exercise.
If you've been in a gym before, you've seen people doing planks. If you ask someone what is a good exercise for the core, they often say plank. Planks are often a go-to exercise for the core, and while it is good (you need to know how to brace) it's not the greatest ab exercise.
Don't get me wrong; like I said above, the plank is still a good exercise. You need to know how to plank for proper bracing technique, which is important for keeping a rock-solid lower back.
Think about squeezing your butt to the floor, and crunching your abs until you feel a bit rounded, like in the picture above. This keeps the lower back in a better position. Once you master this move, you can try the next one below.
1. Swiss Ball Plank
A different take on the classic plank, this exercise is the same as the plank, but is taken to another level of difficulty because of the instability of the ball. To make it even harder from here, raise the feet on a chair or sofa. You can usually find these balls at major retailers, or online. They are a cheap but useful investment.
2. Ab Rollout
The ab rollout is a more advanced movement, one that you can progress to after the ball plank. It can be done with the ab wheel tool, furniture sliders, or some old rags that you probably have laying around. The key is to maintain trunk stability, which is super challenging because you are moving your arms away from the center of gravity.
If you can rep out this move, you have some serious core strength. If you feel it in the lower back, you're probably letting the hips sag, and not engaging the glutes and core properly. Only roll out as far as you can while keeping the hips from sagging.
3. Side Plank
The side plank is another plank variation, this time focusing on the obliques. This a great exercise because it targets the obliques without actually bending/twisting the spine. Too many people try to work the oblique muscles and end up doing exercises that aren't so friendly.
You might be wondering, what's with all these planks? Well, remember this: stability is king when it comes to core movements. Bending and twisting the spine is not necessarily bad, if you're ready for it. Most people aren't. Make sure you're as stable as a brick wall before doing any bendy or rotational movements.
Below, there are two variations you can try:
The full side plank is the photo on the left; the one the the right is the easier variation on your knees. Pick the one that is challenging for you. If you want to make it even harder, add a hip lift as shown in the video below (but make sure you can do a full side plank for at least a 30-45 seconds with relative ease).
4. Leg lift with Hip Extension / Toe Touches
"But Gabe, all the plank and stability stuff is great, but I want to work my abs!" Okay, I get it; you really crave the burn in your "abzz" (although, if you're doing all of these moves correctly, you should be feeling it). Well, this is a great exercise to target the rectus abdominis AKA "abs" muscle. In the video below, I show three variations: medium, easy, and hard difficulty, in that order.
Putting It All Together
That's it? Yep, we are keeping it simple. For one, it's better to be great at a few things rather than being mediocre at many things. And, my writing muscles are getting tired now.
Using what you've learned above, you can put it all together into a simple routine. Here's an example outline:
A1. Swiss ball plank (if it's too hard, do it on your knees): x 30 seconds
A2. Leg raises with hip extension: x 8-12
Do 3-4 rounds of A1 and A2, back to back. rest for only 10-30 seconds in-between exercises (if you really need it), and 1-2 minutes once you've completed the entire circuit.
B1. Ab rollout x 10
B2. Side plank: anywhere from 30-60 seconds (if not 30 seconds, as long as you can)
Do 3-4 rounds of B1 and B2, back to back. rest for 1-2 minutes once you've completed it.
You can easily add this quick routine on one of your off days, pair it with some cardio, or split it up and add it after a strength workout. All you need is 10-15 minutes, and some sweat to spare.
This is nothing glamorous, and involves minimal equipment. Could I add more movements in this post? Yes; there are hundreds of ab and core exercises in the workout world. But it's best to keep things simple, and get really strong at the basics.
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Thanks for reading you beautiful humans! Stay strong and healthy.