Simple (not easy) abs

Your abs are core component (gettit?) of your ability to transmit forces between your upper and lower body. They play an integral role in stabilising your spine and help control your hip and rib position relative to each other.

And if your body fat is low enough, well developed abs look pretty cool too.

Building a solid midsection takes a little effort. It is, as the title says, simple, not easy. Here are 4 groups of exercises you can use to help build a rock solid, high performing, good looking middle.

  1. Anti-extension variations.
  2. Spinal flexion variations
  3. Anti-rotation variations
  4. Anti-lateral flexion variations.

Anti-extension Aka plank variations.

Planks! I hear you say in dismay. Yes, planks. But not just planks, but the whole anti-extension family of exercises including (but not limited to) – planks, hollow body’s, rollouts, dead bugs and body saws.

The key to this group is the abs ability to resist the pulling apart of the hips and ribs. The common thread between all the above-mentioned exercises is that there is a force acting to cause the hips to roll forward and/or the ribs to lift, opening the gap between the 2 and causing the low back to extend.

With the plank, the load is acting through the low back towards the floor. The hollow body has the weight of the legs and upper body acting towards the floor and the others have various ways that the lever lengths change throughout the movements, increasing and decreasing the load that the abs have to resist.



Spinal flexion variations – Aka Crunches

Crunches are a much maligned group of exercises but done well, they can be a great addition to your core training toolbox.

With a fixed rib position, flexion creates movement at the hips. Fixed hips means the movement comes from the ribs. Learning to control these 2 sections of your body gives you a distinct advantage when it comes to controlling your body position throughout all your other exercise groups.

Reverse crunches on the floor or swiss ball help you use the abs to pull the hips back up towards the belly button. Loaded crunches help teach you to bring the ribs down towards the belly button. The combo of these 2 help to build your ability to better control the anti-extension exercises from section 1.

Anti-rotation variations Aka resist the twist.

The ability to resist forces that try to twist you off course is kind of a big deal. Try opening a heavy door without the ability to keep your upper body centred and forward facing. It’s going to be a struggle.

Building strength through your obliques to stop your ribs rotating around your spine is an often forgotten component of many core training programs.

Three of my go-to exercises for building anti-rotation strength are pallof presses, anti-rotation planks and band walk outs.


Anti-lateral flexion variations – Aka Stand tall

Lateral flexion happens when there is a unilateral load that causes you to be pulled into a side bend. Being able to resist that type of load helps you maintain a stable torso and hips, as well as being able to carry heavy loads.

For this group of exercises, we can include side plank variations and one arm carries. Both use the obliques, both internal and external, as well as the hip complex, rectus abdominus, and spinal erectors to maintain a stable position.

Side plank variations you can see 5 of my favourite side plank progressions here. The loaded carries can be with the weight held low, in the racked position or with the weight held overhead.

Next time you are looking for options to build up a solid midsection, give these categories an even spread across your training program and reap the benefits.

Stay strong,



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