We all know that abs are made in the kitchen, but having a strong core has many benefits – the biggest being a reduction in injury. Low back pain plagues more people than any other issue, and a strong core helps to reduce this – a rocking 6-pack sure doesn’t hurt either ;). As always, it is important to keep your core tight while doing any type of exercise, as it helps to stabilize your body and protect your back. Believe it or not, you are working out your abs just by stabilizing them! Here are my top 5 ab exercises that generate the biggest results!
1. Side Plank with Pulse
We all know and love
to hate the plank, but the side plank doesn’t get quite enough love. Roll over onto your side with one arm on the ground, and the other on your hip. Make sure your body is in a straight line, with your hips not sagging. Then, hold your plank and do small pulses to really engage your obliques. Start with 30 seconds of holding, and then work up from there. Don’t forget to switch sides!
Of all the ab exercises out there, I feel that I have been doing bicycles the longest. They are great for isolation, and work multiple parts of the core. Lay on your back, with your legs bent and your hands behind your head. Slowly start moving your legs as if you are on a bicycle, then have your elbow meet the opposite knee. Switch sides & repeat. The slower you move with this one, the more difficult it becomes.
Photo via realsimple.com
3. Leg Raises
These are always hard for me. You can do this in either a captain chair at the gym, or just hanging from a pull-up bat. Start by hanging on the device of your choosing. Bring your legs up perpendicular to your body, and hold them straight while doing them. Lower them down, but be sure to do this controlled. Repeat. If you aren’t able to keep your legs straight, go ahead and bend them, and work up to the straight leg. It isn’t easy, but it works those lower abs that tend to get neglected!
4. Hip Thigh Raise
This is another great exercise the requires no flexion, so it is great for people with back issues. Lay on your back, with both knees bent, feet on the ground. Lift your hips so your body is in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Straighten out one of your legs, but keep both knees parallel (this will keep you from lifting your leg too high and sinking your hips). Switch legs, but be sure to keep your hips elevated the entire time.
5. V-Up with Stability Ball
This is a twist on the standard v-up with a bit of resistance added in. If you have low back problem, I would stay away from this one. It does isolate the low back a bit, and you wouldn’t want to put too much stress on it. Start laying down on your back, with a large stability ball between your feet. Raise your feet and arms towards one another (like a V), and grab the stability from your feet. Lower back down. Repeat, but this time, the ball will go from your hands to your feet. Cycle through this as many times as your body will let you.