Forget crunches and sit-ups. Those exercises are so ’90s. And even though the ’90s have made a comeback, the exercise methods of that decade should stay in the past.
Despite what you might’ve learned in PE or at a Body Pump class at your local gym, crunches and sit-ups aren’t ideal core exercises. They put strain on your lower back and only work your rectus abdominis (the six-pack muscles). Not only can that lead to lower back discomfort, but overworking the ab muscles can make them stick out, giving the appearance of a distended belly from the profile view. Also, by only doing crunches and sit-ups you’re missing out on strengthening the other muscles in your core (because your core is made up of more than just your abs). The best type of exercises for your midsection use those deep-down muscles like the transverse abdominis, obliques, and erector spinae. They help you get stronger and challenge your core from a variety of positions. They have functional crossover which can help you improve other exercises and move better in your everyday life.
So just what are these super effective core those exercises?
I’m about to get into that, but there’s just one more thing that must be said if we’re on the topic of the human core. If you want visible abs, you’ve gotta drop some fat. And that has A LOT to do with your diet. So if you’re still knocking back sodas and M&Ms with reckless abandon, no amount of crunches is going to give you a six pack. Not to mention that you can’t spot reduce either. Meaning that doing sit-ups or stomach exercises is NOT going to specifically burn the fat on your stomach. You lose fat in a genetically predetermined way that is not influenced by isolation exercises.
Alright, enough of the science lesson. Here’s a list of the best core exercises you’re not doing, plus a core burner download at the end.
To do a Paloff press, set a cable or band at chest height. You’ll want to be standing with your side to the cable pulley or whatever you have the band anchored to. Grab the band/cable and hold it in front of your chest. You’ll want to be standing far away enough that there is some tension, but not so much that you can’t maintain alignment. Once you’ve found your position, press forward until your arms are fully extended, making sure to keep your body straight. Do 10-12 reps, then repeat on the other side.
You won’t want to go too heavy with this exercise. The whole point of it is for your trunk to resist rotation, so if you find yourself struggling to keep your back straight you might want to lighten the load.
There are also tons of different variations of the Paloff press, like this one, this one, and this one.
These are deceivingly hard. The video goes through the different progressions you can make. The most important thing to keep in mind is maintaining lower back contact with the floor. To make the exercise more changing, you can hold 2.5 lb or 5 lb plates in your hands. Do 8-10 reps per side.
If you have trouble getting L-sits, these are great practice for them. The closer your hands are to your hips, the easier the exercise is. The closer they get to your knees, the more difficult it becomes. You can either hold the position or pulse your legs–both for time.
Hollow holds can be difficult to get at first, so make sure you spend your time going through the progressions. Like dead bugs, keeping your lower back pressed into the floor is absolutely critical for doing a hollow hold correctly. If at any point your lower back starts to arch and you lose contact with the floor, regress back to the previous position. Beginners will mostly likely need to start by holding the hollow position with tucked knees. Make sure your shoulder blades are off the floor. Keeping your hands (with palms up) by your hips makes the exercise easier, and raising them up by your ears makes it more difficult.
This is definitely a go-by-feel exercise and is usually done for time. Start off with 5 seconds and work your way up to 15 to 20 seconds. And I can’t say it enough–your lower back must be touching the floor!
Admittedly, this one is pretty silly, but it’s a great warm-up for your core. You alternate between the hollow and arching positions. Start off in the hollow position and roll over to the arching (superman) position. Aim to get an equal amount of left and right rolls. Do 6 to 8 total reps.
And because I want you guys to be HARD CORE (get it?), I’ve created a *FREE* CARDIO BURNER download for you. It features 3 core workouts that can be tacked onto the end of your workout or done on cardio days. Try them out and let me know what you think 🙂