We know everyone is talking about six packs and flat belly etc. After all, it's summer time. Here are our five favourite exercises that will make your tummy strong and flat.
Plank – No no, a real Plank!
This is one of those exercises that are continuously done wrong by a large group of people. A lot of us out there are getting into the plank position and …. well, not much happening in the core, is it?
However, here are some tips to make this position work so hard, you won't last a full minute. First, get into the push-up position, engage your shoulders and grab the ground, like you would want to squeeze the whole earth. Your shoulders should be pushing, making your back slightly curved. Now tighten your glutes, your quads, and make sure your knees and ankles are squeezed together. Aaaa, you forgot about your abs, didn’t you? In this position you should be like a rock – nothing is resting, not a single muscle.
To make it more fun, ask another person to slightly push you on the sides, press your head down (not too hard though), or lift your legs and move them around, suddenly releasing one of the legs and vice versa. You should not lose your tight position under any circumstances. How does that feel?
The ab-roller does a great job of strengthening your core. It also tests the hell out of your shoulder stability, triceps and lower back strength. OK, you need some equipment for this one, but it will only cost you a tenner or so. You can use a barbell with plates, an ab wheel, or even a flat dolly with wheels for this exercise. As long as you have the ability to reach far forward and engage your core to tuck back in, you’re good with the equipment.
One thing to really make sure of: lower back. Remember that you CANNOT arch your lower back at any point. You can hurt yourself, so better go slow with this exercise and start on your knees, instead of full range move on feet. To make sure your back is well aligned, squeeze your glutes as hard as you can. This should stop you from arching and make things safe.
Progressions for this exercise:
- On knees (from small range to full range of movement)
- Knees on yoga block (or anything else really)
- On feet facing a wall that will limit your movement and slowly progressing to the full ab roll-out
Yeah, not the one you usually do when you practice a handstand. We’re talking about tuck while your body is in horizontal position. You can use either rowing machine’s seat to do this, TRX, or even an ab roller if it has stripes to hold your feet (some larger ones do). We’d suggest TRX, as it will give you an unrestricted range of movement. When you’ve mastered the straight tuck, try tucking to one side. This way you will hit your obliques. To easy? Try going further from the TRX. It will try to pull you back if you won’t fight for it.
This one you most probably never heard of, but some of you might have actually done it. There are so many variations of this exercise, but we are going to talk about the straight and classic versions. You will need a band, expander, or weights tower with cable (see picture for explanation). Stand on the band to lock it by the ground, grab the other end of the band and stand straight with your arms fully extended in front of you. The band should be pulling your arms towards the floor. Now bend your elbows and put the band close to your chest and repeat with straight arms.
The classic version of this exercise is when the band is attached to something by the floor and you are standing with your side to the band. This way you will hit your abs and obliques at the same time. With it, you make great use of the core's ability to stabilize your whole body against a load due to the isometric contraction. This is because your muscle length does not change at all as opposed to, when you're for example doing crunches.
Around the World
It look really cool if someone does it with full range of motion. This is one of those exercises that will make you stand out, cause 99% of people won’t be able to do it. We think you know the drill, but here is more details.
Hand from something. Bar, rings, beam, ladder, silks, it doesn’t really matter. If you want it a tiny little bit easier, hand from something stable (won’t help you much though). Now the progression for this exercise starts from knee raises. Lift them until you break the 90 degree angle with your body. The next step would be L-sits. Later on, you should be working towards the full leg raises, where your feet touch the bar (or beam, or rings… you get it). Remember the variation of tucks, where your legs go sideways? You want to do the same with all the progressions above.
When you master all the steps, now it’s time for going around, and around, and around again. With straight legs (keep them really straight) draw big circles going from the floor to full leg raise and back down again. Now that’s impressive!