Get Your Strongest Core Ever by Adding These Ab-Strengthening Exercises Into Your Routine
I hate to break it to you, but you probably haven't been strengthening your abdominal muscles to the best of your ability. Exercises like planks and mountain climbers are great, but guess what? They're only working your anterior abdominal muscles, aka the muscles on the front of your body. An example of an anterior abdominal muscle is your rectus abdominis, commonly referred to as the six-pack, which is worked with exercises like crunches.
It's OK to strengthen those muscles, but every great workout and training program needs to be balanced. So how do you balance out the abdominal exercises you do? By strengthening every part of your core.
To do that, you need to improve your lateral stability with exercises that prevent you from falling over, like a farmer's carry. You'll also need to work on your anterior stability with exercises that prevent you from arching your spine, like elbow planks and seated knee tucks. Focusing on rotational stability by doing exercises like chops, Russian twists, and rotational ball slams is also important. Finally, you'll need to work on your posterior stability by doing exercises that prevent you from rounding your back, like deadlifts and the bird dog.
Nope, we don't expect you to memorize all of these exercises and how they strengthen your core, but you should remember to include a variety of ab exercises into your workouts in order to strengthen every part of your core. Instead of overwhelming you with every core-stabilizing exercise possible, we've rounded up some of the best exercises that will strengthen your posterior core and your posterior chain (remember, these are the muscles on the back side of your body).
Whatever you do, don't do all these moves together as one workout. Instead, begin to incorporate one to three moves into your strength programs. Don't forget to balance them out with the other core-stability exercises mentioned above. Check out the posterior core exercises ahead and start strengthening your abs with this four-week program.
- Position yourself on the back extension machine with your hips on top of the cushioned pads and your feet secured under the leg anchor.
- Place your arms behind your head, or hold onto a kettlebell (10 pounds is a good starting point) with your arms fully extended.
- Lift your torso up a few inches and squeeze your gluteal muscles for two seconds. Then, lower your torso back down to the starting position. Be sure not to overextend your back.
- This counts as one rep.
- If you're a beginner, perform this exercise without weight or start with a light weight. As you feel comfortable, begin to add or increase the weight.
- Lie on your back and place your hands on the floor for stability as you bend one leg and lift the other leg off the ground.
- Pressing your planted heel into the floor and lift your pelvis up, keeping your body in a stiff bridge position.
- Slowly lower your body to the floor. This completes one rep.
- Stand holding a pair of medium-weight dumbbells in each hand, arms at your sides, with your knees slightly bent.
- Keeping your arms straight and knees slightly bent, slowly bend at your hip joint (not your waist) and lower the weights as far as possible without rounding your back, which should remain straight.
- Now squeeze your glutes to slowly pull yourself up (don't use your back). This counts as one rep.
Weighted Glute Bridge
- Grab a medium to heavy dumbbell; 20 pounds is a great starting point. You can also do this exercise using just your body weight.
- On your mat, lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Be sure to keep your feet underneath your knees, not in front. Place the dumbbell on top of your lower abdominals (below your belly button and above your hip bones). Hold the dumbbell in place with both hands to prevent it from moving.
- Raise your hips up to the ceiling, tensing your abs and squeezing your butt as you do. You should be making a long diagonal line with your body, from shoulders to knees.
- Hold for three seconds, making sure your spine doesn't round and your hips don't sag. Keep your abs and butt muscles engaged.
- Lower down to the ground; this is considered one rep.
- Get on all fours, with your knees under your hips and your hands under your shoulders. Remember to keep your abs engaged and your back flat.
- Reach out with your right hand and extend your left leg out behind you.
- Round your back and head to connect your right elbow with your left leg under your body. This completes one rep.
Hex Bar Deadlift
- Load the hex bar with the weight of your choice. If you're new to the move, start by just using the bar without any additional weight.
- Stand in the center of the hex bar with your feet hip-width apart.
- Bend at your hips and knees as you grab the handles of the hex bar. Raise your hips up slightly, keeping your back flat, to create tension in the back of your legs (your hamstrings will feel tight).
- Keeping your back flat and shoulders relaxed, drive your heels through the ground as you stand straight up.
- Squeeze your glutes at the top of the lift to ensure you get full hip extension.
- Continue to grasp the handles as you lower the weight to the ground with control. Be sure to keep your chest open and your back flat. This counts as one repetition.
Barbell Hip Thrust
- Sitting on the floor with your legs extended, rest your back against a stable bench.
- Place a towel or shoulder cushion on the bar for comfort (optional). Roll the barbell over your thighs until the bar is directly above your hip joints.
- Brace your core. As you drive your heels into the ground, squeeze your glutes, lifting your hips up to full extension, meaning your hips are even with your knees.
- With control, lower back down to the ground.
- This is one repetition.
- Lie on your back with your hands by your side and your heels about 12 inches from your pelvis. Press your heels into the floor to come into a bridge position with a neutral spine.
- Press your right heel into the floor, and keeping your knee bent, raise your left leg until your hip is at 90 degrees. Lower your left leg down, pressing through your glutes so your pelvis doesn't drift to the floor along with the leg. This counts as one rep.