Your abs are more than just for show. They should create a solid midsection capable of transferring loads and maintaining good position between your ribs and pelvis.
Training your abs should involve more than just endless rounds of crunches and those fluttery kick things that are usually butchered. Here are 4 of my favourite exercises to build strength, stability and a six pack.
Half Get up
The half get up is the first part of the Turkish get up. It’s not only a great movement for building a strong midsection, but it also adds shoulder stability.
- Start with an unloaded version, I look for clients to do this well on both sides equally well before I even think of adding load.
- Pause at each point on the way up and down.
- Keep your “up” arm pointing at the ceiling. If you have any kind of load and you aren’t aiming straight up, you’re going to have a bad time.
- Push the floor away when you are in the elbow or hand position. Don’t let your shoulder and ear get cosy.
- Make it smooth and controlled.
Dead bug with reach
The humble dead bug is a vastly underrated exercise in my opinion. When done badly it looks awful, and you get approximately zero benefits.
When done well, however, you get an amazing lesson in lumbo-pelvic control (basically stopping your hips from rolling away, leaving you with a big arch in your low back.)
Adding the reach, loaded or not, adds a challenge that reinforces your ability to lock down your ribs and still achieve some upper back extension/ rotation.
- Make sure you can do a basic dead bug first!
- Start doing the reach without a load initially.
- Reach up and across at about 45 degrees, aim to get your bicep to your nose.
- Slow it down. Maintain good control over your hip position and control the load you use for the reach.
Band step outs
I like this as a variation on anti-rotation movements like the Pallof press or tight band rotations. I actually started using this with a client who competes in Roller Derby to help with hip/ core control and it worked really well.
- Use a band with the right amount of tension. You don’t need a lot to make this super effective, and make sure to use a band, not a cable, in order to get the change in tension as you step out.
- Lead with your outside foot, whilst driving off your inner foot, and stay upright. You’re not a Weeble, don’t wobble.
- Arms straight = more rotational force to resist, arms bent = less rotational force. Make sure your hips stay under your ribs throughout and you stay facing forwards before you increase the need to resist more rotation.
- Control the pull of the band on the way back in.
This is a great crunch variation that I like because it limits how high you go and you can add load to increase difficulty. The abs are the same as other muscles, they need increasing loads to stimulate increases in size and strength. And while it’s not always about bigger, more abdominal strength isn’t often a bad thing.
- Start with 1 knee up, as in the video. This helps maintain a neutral or slightly tilted hip position throughout. I.e. your low back doesn’t get to arch.
- Hold the weight directly above your shoulders and squeeze your abs to pull your shoulder blades off the floor and raise the plate straight up.
- Whatever weight you are using, keep your shoulders away from your ears and imagine trying to tear the weight in half to “screw” your upper arms into the shoulder sockets. Squeeze the bejeezus out of it.
- You want to get your shoulder blades off the floor, not come up into a full sit up position. Trust me, this is enough!
- Control the weight back down.
- Don’t drop the weight on your face.
Planks are always a great option when done well. Here are 10 great variations to try out!