Summer’s near and the abs are about to be on full display. Do you find yourself trying to crank out as many crunches as possible to get ready? What if I told you there was another way? Well good news, there are many ways to gain a strong midline, and most methods can be applied to all of your exercises. You can essentially take your ab workout from 15 minutes at the end of a workout to the entire time you’re working out! How about that for time under tension?
In no particular order, here are five exercises that will definitely build up strength in your abs, obliques, and low back:
Not your run-of-the-mill body weight squats or even goblet squats - we’re talking full blown back squats, front squats, and definitely overhead squats. Mull over this for a second, which part of the body connects your legs to the weight you’re moving during a squat? Your core! Now think about this, what would be safer and more efficient, a pool noodle for a gut, or a metal I-beam? No brainer, right? It should be, but too many people focus very little on their abs, obliques and lats while squatting. Did you know that tightening your abs and making sure your posture is correct around your trunk will force you to squat better and safer? If you’ve never heard of diaphragmatic breathing during a squat, you need to step away from the weights for a second and get this down.
This one likely comes as surprise to no one, BUT most people do this “simple” exercise incorrectly. Get into a plank position, elbows, hands, knees, toes, doesn’t matter, just pick a position that is comfortable to you. Now hold that pose for 1 minute, no breaks. When you’re done, ask yourself this simple question, “Where did you feel that the most?” If the answer is not your abs, you were doing it wrong. Yes, yes, you are a fitness superstar and you’re too strong to feel this exercise, but you are also lying to yourself. If done correctly, a plank should blow your abs up every time. Here is a video to help explain how to make your plank phenomenal. Don’t have time to watch the video? No problem, all you need to do to better your plank is squeeze your butt cheeks! This will put your hips into a much better position for abdominal activation and stimulation. The video goes into more detail, but focus on your booty to get the most out of the plank position.
The deadlift- feared by those who do not venture into the land of free weights, and abused by those who do. This exercise and its dynamic colleague, the squat, are the whole package when it comes to overall body training because you literally use every muscle in your body to move weight. Your legs are the main muscle movers, and your upper body is simply transferring the energy from your legs to the bar. The weak link in the chain? You guessed it, your midline! Think about your upper body like an easy bake oven, set it and forget it. The tighter your body is locked into the correct position, the better your workout, the safer the lift, and the more weight you can move. Win, win, and win. If you have never touched a bar, or not familiar with the deadlift, the best thing to do to start learning how to deadlift is to learn how to do the Romanian Deadlift first, check out this video and start there.
4. Sitting Tall
You have not read that incorrectly, sitting up with good posture is one of the best, not to mention easiest, ways to get those abs you’ve been wanting to see. When is the best time to practice this exercise? All the time. Where is the best place to practice the movement? Anywhere. What weight should you use? Body weight. How long should you hold the pose? As long as you can. Watch this video for more benefits of good posture.
5. Shoulder Press
Yes, this is the shoulder press you have likely seen and done before. Why did this shoulder exercise make it on the list? Great question. To answer this one, you really need to watch the above video on posture. Your vertebrae are designed to be stacked on top of each other. With that thought in mind, think back to the last time you did a shoulder press or saw someone doing a shoulder press. What was the first thing you saw move on their body? Probably, something along your spine. Once your spine moves, especially if it moves backwards, the movement has become an incline bench press, except in this scenario your lower back does not have the support of the bench. Tighten up your abs and your glutes as hard as you can before you even start the lift. Fun fact, keeping these two muscle groups tight throughout the entire movement will force your body to lift the bar with more of the correct muscle groups. If it feels awkward and weird it’s probably because you’re being introduced to muscles you haven’t used in a while. You’re welcome.
*Not mentioned earlier, the squat and the deadlift take time and patience. These are not exercises to be taken lightly, they are complicated, but when done correctly you will find very few exercises that compare in overall physical benefits. All that to say, you should take the time to learn them; these exercises are just like a garden, takes time to cultivate them into maturity, but once you do, watch out!
My name is Trevor Bridges and I am a private trainer, I hold a B.S. in Health and Exercise Science, have a level one Sports Performance Coach certificate from USAW, I'm CrossFit level one certified, and I own and operate my own training facility alongside my wife in Tulsa, OK. Fitness is my passion and expertise and I want to help you master your body and mind so that you can unlock your full potential. I believe fitness should be fun, practical, challenging, and applicable to every day life. If you focus on the details and seek excellence in everything you do, success is guaranteed. I enjoy all things that make me look and feel more like a superhero: gymnastics, weightlifting, snowboarding, break dancing, martial arts; if there is a high degree of technicality, I am on board.