A Guide to Training Core: Strength
I need to clear up a common misconception a lot of people have when starting their fitness journey.
Training abs isn't going to give you abs.
Abs are only visible when you've achieved the optimal body fat percentage, which is different for everybody.
Achieving your optimal body fat percentage to see your abs starts with being in a calorie deficit, burning and reducing the fat layer covering your abdomen.
Note, it's impossible to target one specific area of body fat.
When in a calorie deficit, your body burns fat accumulatively from every area of your body.
So now that you understand abs are only made visible in the kitchen, let's get into ways to make your abs more defiant and stronger.
I'll start out by saying it really doesn't matter which muscle group you're training, your core is engaged one way or another.
In the picture above, I can full heartedly say I never trained abs once during my 16 weeks of competition prep with Nutritioneering.
Proving all it takes is reaching that optimal body fat percentage to get abs.
I have recently included the addition of a core day as an "active rest day" over the weekends and have found the following exercises most effective and time efficient.
The greatest static hold exercise of them all, keeping your core engaged the whole duration of the exercise.
The goal is to create a straight line through your body and hold it until you can't anymore.
Since this exercise is safe and doesn't need any additional weight to complete, it's easy to push your limits to failure on each set.
The only real difficulty to this exercise is controlling your breathing and embracing the burn through your core, once you begin to lose control of your breathing, the end is near.
Onto exercise 2, flutter kicks.
Another core exercise revolving around the duration of a static hold, this exercise primarily targeting the lower abdomen.
Keeping your hands to your sides (tucking your hands underneath you is cheating), lift your legs straight above the ground and kick them in a fluttering motion.
Keep the kicking roughly no higher than a foot, foot and a half off of the ground while also holding your head up.
Just like the elbow plank, this is a safe exercise to push to complete failure and keeping your breathing under control is critical.
Flutter kicks are a great complimentary exercise to elbow planks.
Onto exercise 3, heel touches.
Heel touches primarily activate your obliques, which are located on your sides. Also activating your upper abdomen.
My obliques are represented well in the first picture of the blog, visually representing as gills.
For form, align your feet just inside shoulder width apart.
Maintain a crunch position with your arms straight to your sides while you alternate touching your heels.
To make this exercise challenging, keep your heels at just the right distance so you can barely reach them with your fingertips.
The next core exercise I will be breaking down for you activates your entire abdomen.
Bicycle crunches are one of my favorite ab exercises because of how well it activates your core.
From a form stand point, start by raising your legs, keeping them straight roughly a foot off the ground.
In a crunching motion, the goal is to touch your elbow to your opposing knee.
Continue to do so, alternating from side to side until failure.
For these, focus on flexing/squeezing your core at peak flexion for 1-2 seconds before alternating to the other side.
I promise bicycle crunches will leave you with one of the greatest abdomen pumps you've ever experienced!
This next exercise is a combination between a plank and the bicycle crunch, mountain climbers.
Like a plank your whole abdomen is activated, but is predominantly a lower abdomen exercise.
You can do these either in an incline position like I demonstrate here, or flat on the ground.
This core exercise can also be a great substitute for cardio as it really gets your heart going.
At a high tempo, alternate bringing each knee as close to your chest as possible.
Basically doing high knees in a slanted or flat position for a timed duration, keeping rest short between sets to get the most out of the exercise.
Make sure to incorporate hip flexor stretches prior to loosen up and avoid strain or injury.
So this last exercise I'll be covering is a boring one but still very effective.
When in doubt, go back to the basics.
Depending on the strength of your core, you can do them with your feet free or secured.
Keep your arms crossed over your chest and allow your core to pull you towards your knees.
This exercise does a great job activating your whole core.
For each set, push yourself to failure, going for as many reps as possible (AMRAP).
For foot placement, keep them at roughly shoulder width apart with a bend similar to the demonstration.
Next time you train core give these ab exercises a try and tag Flight Physiques!
If you're interested in a fully customized workout routine, designed to your lifestyle and fitness goals, reach Dylan Kosek by filling out the Flight Physiques Questionnaire located on our home page! Dylan will get back to you within 24 hours to set up your FREE 1 on 1 Consultation!