The abdominals are a fundamental core muscle group. Taking part in every physical movement we do, power shifts through the abdominals with each lift, bend, rotation, and when you balance. Besides any obvious aesthetic benefits in having developed abdominals, no muscle group plays a more important role in maintaining proper posture, preventing lower back injury and improving athletic performance.
The fitness industry is inundated with exercises, routines, gadgets and even diets all designed and manufactured with the intention of guaranteed ‘6pack’ abs. In my opinion, most of the information and training tools are worthless. Great ideas and instruments created for the intent of supplementing exercise routines or helping injured athletes and post operation patients have become the core of most people’s workout routines. It’s time to get back to the basics.
The abdominal area is comprised of 4 muscle groups; erectus abdominis, the internal oblique’s, external obliques and transverse abdominis. Erectus abdominis runs the length of the abdominal wall while the external oblique’s run diagonally to the erectus abdominis. The internal obliques are diagonally opposed to the external oblique and transverse abdominis runs horizontally across the abdominal wall along the midsection and underneath the external/internal oblique’s. Because the abdomen is comprised of both fast and slow twitch muscle fibers it is essential to design a routine that engages these distinct muscle fiber types. For example, slow twitch muscle fibers will respond best to weighted resistance as they are designed to withstand slow movements . On the other hand, fast twitch muscle fibers are designed for explosiveness and will burn out more easily. With this in mind, it is important to have a routine where you can use both weighted resistance and speed or explosiveness as your primary tools. Sound complicated? Training the AB’s is actually easy if you follow the basic speed vs. strength principle.
There are at least 100 solid abdominal exercises that I use with clients and athletes in any given week. Some target specific areas, some require elite levels of coordination and some are simply designed to increase strength endurance. Very few of my favourite abdominal exercises require anything more than a solid surface and in some cases weighted resistance. Here are 5 AB exercises you can do with one set of dumbbells (or weighted plate) or with no weight resistance at all.
Iron Cross Side Bend
Quarter Squat position keeping one arm with dumbbell by your side and one arm with dumbbell in a shoulder press start position.
While completing the side bend, aim to extend your arms into a ‘cross’ position. Your stable arm will aim to reach as low as possible while your pressing arm extends over head. If you do the movement properly you should have a close to perfectly straight line from wrist to wrist.
Around the World
Standing tall, place both hands on the dumbbell hanging in front of your hips.
Keeping your eyes on the dumbbell at all times your arms straight and locked, slowly rotate the dumbbell around the counter of your body. Starting at the bellybutton, rotate over your head and back down to your starting position, then rotate the opposite direction to complete one repetition.
Lie on your back with bent knees, feet firmly on the floor with the dumbbell extended straight out.
Tighten you AB’s and raise your shoulders of the floor, keeping your arms locked and dumbbell over head curl forward until the dumbbell hangs past your knees. Slowly lower your shoulders back to the floor so that they touch lightly then repeat the movement.
Straight Leg Crunches
Lie flat on your back with your legs straight up (knees locked) and dumbbell in hands with arms extended parallel to your body.
Tighten your AB’s and aim to touch the dumbbell to your toes. Slowly lower your shoulders until they lightly skim the floor then repeat the movement.
In a semi-sit-up position,with knees bent and off the ground in front of you. Arms grasping the dumbbell resting on the abdomen
Holding your knees off the ground and straight in front of you the whole time (do not allow your legs/hips to rotate) slowly twist the dumbbell from side to side gently touching the weight to the ground. To increase difficulty you can perform this task with straight legs and straight arms and or bend and straighten your legs in and out with each rotation.
With Dumbbells, keep the repetitions between 10 and 12 and keep the movement slow. If you are a beginner or want to mix it up, try performing these exercises from 25-30 reps at an explosive pace.
Photography. ©Urszula Kozak