If you are a serious lifter at the gym, you should take care that your core is strong.
A strong core not only helps in every exercise or to gain lean mass but also avoids lower back and other problems that occur during later years.
There is this misconception among people that only crunches and sit-ups target the abdominal muscles when in reality, having a strong core is all that matters.
People think that the core consists of only the abdominal muscles, but it is a set of muscles that run down the waist, the glutes, the lower back and up and down round the back.
Rely on these eight abs exercise firm your core muscles:
Core Exercise 1: Planks
1. Lie down with your face towards the floor and rest your whole body on your forearms and elbows. Elevate your upper body such that it forms one nice straight line. Keep no bend in your knees or back.
2. Hold this position for 20-25 seconds and remember to breathe in and out deep throughout the static hold.
Tip: Proper breathing has a direct impact on the activation of core muscles.
You can also do variations of planks: Side planks, weighted planks, exercise ball planks, plank walkouts are some exercises that target the core even more.
Learn more about plank exercises on Top 16 Plank Exercise For Better Core Workout | Six Pack Abs
Core Exercise 2: Push-up holds
Isometric push ups engage more muscle fibers and contract the core more.
1. Assume a push-up position and lift one leg off the ground. Bring the knee of that leg just beside your same side elbow.
2. Reach for the elbow as slowly as possible. Count your way through. Start from 5 seconds and gradually increase the hold time.
3. Repeat the same for the other side. Perform about 10 repetitions.
Core Exercise 3: Bicycle crunches
1. Lie on a ground mat and position your hands behind your head.
2. Crunch your upper body and hold your thighs at right angles to the floor and lower part of the legs parallel to the ground.
3. Start the pedal motion, kicking forward and pulling the legs in.
4. Crunch up by reaching for the left leg with your right elbow and vice versa.
5. Continue this alternating motion until you reach 12-15 repetitions.
An alternate tougher variation of this is where you hold a medicine ball in your hands and make an “eight” in the air as you crunch upwards. It will target your obliques too.
Core Exercise 4: Hanging leg raises
1. With a grip slightly more than the shoulder width, hang from a pull-up bar.
2. Flex your hips and lift your legs straight up, keeping a slight bend at the knees.
3. Contract at the last movement and hold that position for one to two seconds and bring back your legs down.
4. Repeat for 12-15 repetitions.
Tip: You can use straps if you want to fortify your grip. This exercise is demanding on the shoulders.
Keep your ribs down, so that only your lower body is moving up without much engagement of the lower back. Try to pull the bar down so that it creates more tension in your core muscles.
Practice belly breathing throughout the exercise.
Core Exercise 5: Side planks
2. Raise your hips off the ground and maintain the rest of the body fully straight.
3. Hold this position for 10 seconds first and gradually increase the hold time to 20-30 seconds. Keep regularly breathing from your diaphragm.
Core Exercise 6: Ab rollouts
1. Get in a push-up position but instead of your hands on the floor, this time you will hold a loaded barbell with an overhand grip. This is your initial position.
2. Keep a small arch in the back and keep rest of the body completely straight. Rest on your knees and don’t stretch your body far too much.
3. Pull your glutes inwards while keeping your core tight and maintaining the tight posture in the lower back. Don’t move your arms at all, keep them fixated to the loaded barbell. Roll the barbell till you feel the burn in your core.
Remember to do this exercise in a controlled manner so that lower back injuries can be avoided.
Core Exercise 7: Dumbbell side bends
1. Stand straight, place your left hand behind your head or the back and hold the dumbbell with the right hand.
2. Start bending at the waist towards the left as far as you can. While bending, inhale and exhale while coming up.
3. Perform 12-15 repetitions for each side.
Core Exercise 8: Russian twists
1. Sit on your glutes, keeping a bend at the knees and feet hip width apart.
2. Lean backwards, and clasp your hands forward.
3. Rotate your obliques and reach for the right side with your right shoulders. Don’t raise your feet off the floor. The key is maintaining a stable position in your whole body by just moving your obliques. Do the same for the other side.
4. Perform 15-20 repetitions for each side.
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