Sunday, April 24, 2011

My 4 Very Favorite Ab Exercises

As many of you know, I'm not big on crunches.  (If you want to know my spiel on that, this more or less covers it:  http://vimeo.com/14442475 )  Note that this is my own personal opinion.  There may be plenty of pro-crunch arguments out there.  As a matter of fact, I'm sure there are.  However, I don't do them.  I think there are many more effective ways to work the abs.  Here are my favorites:

1)  The Deadlift.  Try lifting an extremely heavy weight off the floor with good form and tell me that your trunk muscles aren't firing.  The deadlift is one of the finest midsection strengtheners I know of.  But don't take my word for it-- the research has been done:  http://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Abstract/2007/11000/Trunk_Muscle_Activation_During_Dynamic.22.aspx  (read in particular the part in which it states:  "In addition, the 80% 1RM deadlift ULES EMG activity also exceeded the body weight squat, deadlift, superman, and sidebridge exercises by 66.7, 65.5, 69.3, and 68.6%, respectively.").   In short, pick up heavy stuff properly, get killer abs.

 
Beats the hell outta crunches.



While we're on the topic, we can go ahead and throw in kettlebell swings right here.  A kettlebell swing is simply a ballistic deadlift.  Different intention, very similar exercise.  Done properly (of course), heavy swings will give you one hell of a strong core, just like deadlifts will.

2)  The Pullup.  Not too long ago, I gave myself a challenge, as I am wont to do.  I decided I was going to do 500 pullups in 5 days.  Because I'm stubborn, I completed my challenge.  And yeah, my back and arms were extremely sore from the unfamiliar volume, but you know what was the most fatigued?  You guessed it-- my abs.  Make no mistake, pullups (done properly, of course) are one heck of an abdominal toaster.

3)  The Farmer's Walk.  Farmer's walks are well-known in the strongman community.  The concept is simple:  pick up a weight (or two) and walk with it:

Like this. 
Bilateral walks like the one pictured are great.  You can also load your weight higher up on the body, like at shoulder level or overhead, for a different kind of challenge.  I, personally, am a big fan of unilateral farmer's walks, in which you load only one side of your body.  Your trunk is forced to stabilize against the weight in order to maintain an erect posture, and, voilá, you're on your way to a bulletproof belly. 

4)  The Hanging Leg Raise.  Hanging leg raises are not easy, but they're extremely effective.  The idea is to hang from a bar by your hands and raise your legs straight up until your feet (at minimum) touch the bar-- without using momentum.  They look a lot like this:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6eF19zP9dk  There are, of course, lots of variations on this exercise to make it easier or more difficult, but this is the general idea.

So there you have it-- my Big Four Abdominal Busters.  That having been said, don't be fooled into thinking that strong abs translate to six-pack abs.  You can do all of these exercises 24/7 until you're blue in the face, and you won't have a six-pack unless you change your diet.  Abdominal muscles can't be seen under a layer of adipose tissue, and if your diet isn't spot-on, you're not going to see what you want to see in your body composition.  Put all the pieces of the fitness puzzle together, though, and you'll be one lean, mean, good-lookin', bulletproof machine.  :)

Questions?  Comments?  Post 'em here!

5 comments:

  1. Fantastic Melody and I totally agree!!!! Especially with the Farmer's walk and Deadlift!!!!

    I remember that photo!!!

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  2. Thanks, Franz! (And thanks for the photo, too! That was an awesome workshop! :) )

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  3. Hi Melody, came across your blog via facebook post from a friend of mine!
    I like your 4 ab workouts! I'm impressed with 500 pull-ups! I'm unable to do "one". I'd like to do "one" sometime before I die! The hanging leg lift is great, except I do mine from my back on the floor without the hanging! If I could do a pull-up, I could do a hanging leg lift! All things I can work on!
    Look forward to more great posts.

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  4. Thank you, Diana!! If it's any consolation, there was a time I couldn't do one pushup, let alone one pullup. I was the last one picked for every sport, and I was bullied a lot. So the way I see it, if I can do it, anyone can. You'll get there. :)

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  5. Thanks Melody.
    It's always the mind that holds us back and not our physical bodies! If I want to do something bad enough-I can! After all....I did pass the RKC! LOL

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