Core: noun: The central or most important part of something.

Don’t confuse core with abs. A lot of people neglect their core, because it’s not as much fun as building biceps, loading up a barbell to flex three plates worth of ego, or hip thrusting their way to perfecting the infamous booty pose (you know which one I’m talking about) and earning the coveted “name.fitness” IG handle.  

That’s less than optimal. Improving core strength helps define the abdominal muscles, and more importantly, adds a level up to the athletic performance. There’s a reason it’s called the core. Well, there’s two. 

  1. Anatomically speaking, your core is well, at the central core of your physique
  2. Athletically speaking, the core is a major component for improving overall balance, which provides a compound effect of benefits including; strength gains, agility, power.

Basically, even if you belong to the “abs are made in the kitchen” school, core still needs to be a part of your workout routine.

Because I also believe vanity is an important part of any exerciser’s arsenal, I’ll also include some ab specific workouts. 

Mountain Climbers

  • 3 x 30
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

The ab workout name with a mysterious origin, I often wonder if the person who titled these ever really climbed a mountain. They look more like someone scrambling up a cliffside. I guess that’s close enough, though. Either way, Mountain Scramblers are a solid ab exercise that can improve core stability, target the lower abs as well as the obliques. You can slow them down to focus more on tearing the abs or speed them up to increase your heart rate.

  • These can be done starting in a plank position with your hands on the floor or with your hands on a coffee table/couch. For this example, we’ll use a couch. There’s really not much difference except for that with your hand placement elevated, you will be focusing more on the movement as opposed to heart rate/cardiovascular.
  • Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the edge of a sturdy couch. Extend your legs straight out behind you — like you would a plank. 
  • Once comfortable in that position bring your left knee up toward your left pec. Bring it back to its starting position then repeat on the right side. This is one rep. Repeat for thirty reps. To clarify, that’s thirty reps on each side.

Side Planks

  • 3 x 30 seconds
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

This exercise targets the obliques. There can be a few ways to play with the angles and hand placement to increase difficulty. You can also add a little twist to get a contraction for your lower abs — doing this will help to build the outer abdominal “wall.” Consider the abdominal wall the frame for your abs, the part that adds a clean line between abs and obliques.

  • Place your right elbow on the floor, so that its directly underneath the middle of your chest. Straighten out your legs. Resting your right foot on the floor, stack your left on top of it. Your left arm can rest against your side or you can hold it out for extra balance. This is your starting point.
  • Flexing your core muscles, raise your body off the floor. The goal here is to create a straight line. Most of us have curves somewhere from back to ankles so anatomically that’s impossible, but I’m referring to the center of your body. From the middle of your clavicle down to your pelvis, then down the thighs, your body should be linear. In other words, don’t let your waist+hips dip toward the floor or rise toward the ceiling.
  • Hold position for thirty seconds, then repeat the movement on your left side.

Planks

  • 3 x 30-60 seconds
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

If you’ve been doing fitness for any length of time, you’ve done these at least a few times. If you’re new to fitness, these are critical to improving core strength. I’m going to assume you know how to perform a proper plank, but here’s a rundown.

  • Legs straight out behind you. 
  • Elbows on the floor at shoulder width. 
  • Push up to your strong plank position from there. 
  • Keep the core tight. Your body should look like…don’t make me finish this sentence.
  • 30-60 seconds. 

Modification: If 60 seconds is easy for you, see how long you can go or if you have any weights that could fit on your back around, throw them on.

Sit-ups

  • 5 x AMRAP (as many reps as possible)
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

Good old fashioned sit-ups. Don’t overlook these simply because they’re so well-known. Yes, they’re not fancy, but that’s because they don’t have to be. They’ve established themselves as a solid way to shred up the abdominal muscles. Old school bodybuilders like the (arguably) most aesthetic dude ever Serge Nubret swore by them. He didn’t even do cardio. Just 1000-2500 sit-ups a day. 

Don’t get me wrong, doing that many sit-ups won’t shred fat. You need a relatively clean diet too, but that’s what articles like this one are for. Everyone knows how to do a proper sit-up, so instead of telling you how to do a basic one, here are some tips to make them more effective.

  • Hands behind the head, at least for the first part of the movement. Sit-ups aren’t a momentum exercise. Focus on curling up with the top of your abdominal muscles before even thinking about sitting all the way up. 
  • If sit-ups hurt your lower back, try rolling up a washcloth and placing it under your lower back. 
  • If you have something lying around that can create a slight downward angle, do your sit-ups this way. It’s basically an incline sit-up (as opposed to a decline sit-up). This makes the movement a little easier so you can get more reps and build up the abdominal muscles, in case you can’t get 15+ reps without.
  • Start the exercise with hands behind your head. Once you reach a point where you’re about to failure, detach your clasped hands and rotate them so that your arms are held at shoulder level in front of you — elbows in a ninety degree angle. This makes your form a little looser and allows you to get more reps. Finally, once that becomes too difficult, place your hands out straight in front of you and think about pulling with them.

Crunches

  • 5 x 10-40
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

You know what crunches are. They’re basically half sit-ups. I personally like to super set these directly after sit-ups, since they work as a mechanical drop set. They’re easier than sit-ups which allows you to continue shredding those abdominal muscles even after you’ve hit initial failure. 

Band Crunches (like rope crunches)

  • 4 x 12-20
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

Just because you don’t have a cable system available doesn’t mean you can’t do one of the most popular cable-ab exercises around. Glory be unto resistance bands.

  • Place an amount of length over the top of a door. Close the door and make sure the top of the band is secure so it doesn’t come loose and strike you on the head. That’s not exactly ideal and can really hinder an otherwise good set (go figure).
  • Gripping the bottom of both sides of the resistance band, like you would a rope attachment, back up 1-2 feet from the door.
  • The start position for a rope crunch is with the spine arched as far back as possible (full extension)
  • Lock your hips and bend your back. Pull the elbows toward the knees, with the spine going from full extension to full flexion, while the waist (hips) stay totally locked and stationary.
  • Contract and squeeze. Slowly return to the starting position.

 

Band Woodchops

  • 4 x 12-20
  • Rest Time: 30-45 seconds

These fantastic exercises help improve rotational strength and more importantly help tone those obliques.

  • Place an amount of length over the top of a door. Close the door and make sure the top of the band is secure so it doesn’t snap forward mid-set, and fling across the room, likely knocking over a precious heirloom because…Murphy’s Law.
  • Extend your arms upward and grip the bottom of the band with both hands over one shoulder.  Back a few feet away from the door. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart so that one side faces the door.
  • Keeping your arms extended, pull the band down across your body and to the other side. Allow your torso to rotate, and once you have full rotation, add in a little crunch to hit the obliques and intercostals harder. Slowly return to the starting position. 
  • That’s one rep. Do the same thing for the other side.


Related Questions

How do I tone my glutes? 2 hours on the stairclimber everyday. Kidding. Add squats, hip thrusts, deadlifts and other exercises that isolate the glutes into your lifting routine.

How do I get rid of my love handles? Really, really, heavy side bends…or do these workouts along with some dietary adjustments. (Note: side bends don’t work)

 

 

 

Author: Logan
IG: loganlpeterson

Logan Peterson

Logan Peterson is an avid writer and an unprofessional, non-competitive bodybuilder. Logan has several degrees, all of which he made up to sound more credible (for obvious reasons, Legal said he can’t list them). In truth, he simply has an insatiable curiosity. After eleven years of obsessive research, he knows too much about fitness, nutrition, and supplementation for his own good. Despite all appearances, he’s fiercely nerdy. Outside of fitness, his passions are reading and writing; his genre interests run the gamut from litrpg to satire. Due to ADHD, he’s currently working on several novels, and will likely publish all of them at once. And yes, he wrote his own bio...in third person.

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